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Service and Scholarship: Saint Vincent and the ROTC

Saint Vincent College’s recently reinstated Reserve Officers’ Training Corps program has already awarded two full scholarships to members of its cohort: sophomore marketing major Patrick Counihan and freshman physics major Zachary Smith. The ROTC Minuteman Scholarship is a full, four-year grant available to any student who is involved in the ROTC program.

Dr. Eric Kocian, representative for Saint Vincent College’s ROTC cohort, spoke about the program itself and its requirements.

“The ROTC Program has been a part of Saint Vincent College since 1984,” Kocian said. When I was hired in 2012-2013, I was tasked with coordinating the ROTC programs on campus to help revitalize it.”

Though the program has existed on campus for over 30 years, reductions in the military budget caused a lull for almost a decade.

“Much like the military, in general, funding for ROTC programs often times depends on the President of the United States. During the 2008-2016 years, military spending decreased, and ROTC scholarships and opportunities dwindled as a result,” Kocian said.

According to Kocian, military hopefuls who wish to join the program should start like any student by taking classes.

“Any [Saint Vincent] student can sign up for ROTC classes taught by the Army at Pitt-Greensburg or the Air Force at Pitt-Oakland,” he said.

Kocian stated that the only obligation for the ROTC classes is 15-week long attendance.

“The classes consist of physical training, leadership skills, land navigation, military strategy, tradition and self-discipline,” Kocian said.

Kocian also praised the recent scholarships awarded to Counihan and Smith.

“Saint Vincent College is proud to acknowledge Patrick Counihan and Zachary Smith, two students who were recently awarded full-ride scholarships to Saint Vincent College paid for by the United States Army,” Kocian said “Patrick and Zachary were recognized for their efforts and each received over $100,000 for their education.”

Kocian confirmed that, as a result, Counihan and Smith will have guaranteed jobs as officers in the United States Army after graduation and will be obligated to serve for a number of years to live up to the prestigious award.

Kocian described hard-working and dedicated individuals who are committed to upholding the standards of the Armed Forces as being the type of students best fit for the program. He stated that the students are great leaders and stand above the competition.

“It is a rare person who chooses to sign up for a class that begins at 0600 in the morning and has a physical fitness and discipline aspect to it,” Kocian said. “People can serve their nation in a number of ways, but there is no greater honor or higher achievement than serving as a member of the armed forces.”

Though Kocian said that the financial benefits of becoming involved in Saint Vincent College’s ROTC program are well apparent, he stressed that the most important part of the responsibility is the honor and integrity associated with serving one’s country.

“While the money benefits the students and the Saint Vincent College community, the fact remains that one's genuine desire to serve our beautiful nation in the highest capacity imaginable should be the driving force for wanting to contract with the military,” Kocian said.

Kocian also stated that those who have worn the uniform know the sacrifices and commitments required to live in in a world where freedom and liberty thrive.

Patrick Counihan, sophomore marketing major from Bethel Park, shared his thoughts and experiences regarding his time in Saint Vincent’s ROTC program and the resulting scholarship he received.

“I became interested in the military after fully understanding the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. I lost some very close family friends that day, and I felt as though it’s been my duty ever since to serve those people justice while at the same time protect my country,” Counihan said.

Since he was a child, Counihan said his goal has been to join the military. He discovered the ROTC program last year after attending a meeting conducted by Kocian.

“I attended a meeting that was conducted by Dr. Kocian,” he said. “[At the meeting,] I learned about the program and all that it had to offer. I [...] learned that no one in the history of Saint Vincent had ever had a scholarship through ROTC.”

Counihan stated that he approached the officer in charge of the meeting, Major Moreau, as well as the non-commissioned officer, Sergeant Swartzbeck, and told them that he was going to be the first to ever do it at the school.

“They both seemed to take me for granted at the time, but less than one year later, I ended up proving my statement to be true,” Counihan said.

Counihan described the amount of work he put into achieving his goal as being more than he has ever done in his life. He began attending PT sessions every morning with other cadets at Pitt-Greensburg. This meant, Counihan explained, that every day, Monday through Friday, he was committed to driving to Pitt-Greensburg, and also committed to working out 60-90 minutes every morning at 05:30, as well as going to class once a week.

While the effort Counihan put into the program was often taxing on him, he said that it brought about radical changes in both his everyday life and his performance in the program.

“My first PT test, I scored a 190 [...] As of Nov. 1 of this year, my weight has decreased to 178 lbs, and I have scored a 300/300 on my PT test,” Counihan said.

Additionally, Counihan engaged in optional training in order to increase his strength and ability.

“On June 1, 2018, I choose to attend basic training in Fort Benning, Georgia. This was completely optional to me; however, I wanted to be the best soldier I could,” he said. “For [over ten] weeks, I worked day in and day out to become the best I could. On Aug. 17, I returned from basic training, a much more well-rounded soldier, both mentally and physically.”

The scholarship money was a welcomed marker of Counihan’s hard work, but he also stated that it was also a reminder of his significant decision to become an officer in the Armed Forces.

“Being awarded the scholarship was the biggest relief of my life,” he stated. “I had worked so hard for a year straight, and seeing that big check, along with the fact that I knew I was going to become an officer in the US Army, was so relieving.”

Counihan said that the experience also reminded him that this was just a step in his journey in his military career.

“I know that at the end of the day, I am taking [ne

cessary] steps [...] to do what I want at the end of the day, which is to deploy and see combat,” Counihan said. “[To] put my boots on the ground. [To] truly fight for our country’s freedom.”

Outside of his involvement with the ROTC program, Counihan is a sports fan, especially of Pittsburgh teams. He also plays golf and baseball at a competition level and plays football and basketball in his free time.

Counihan enjoys the outdoors and takes frequent biking trips, including one from Pittsburgh to Washington D.C., and road trips. While outdoors, Counihan fishes and hunts. Above all, Counihan’s main activity is hanging out with his friends.

“I would like to thank my professors, including Dr. Knotts, Dr. Urick, Fr. Bonaventure, Dr. Cline and Prof. D’Amico for their cooperation with my military obligations,” Counihan said.

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