Charles L. Ingersoll, the first president of the college and a Civil War veteran, organized a group of students into the first drill team. Actual military instruction didn’t begin until 1884, when Lt. Vasa E. Stolbrand was placed in charge. The few men who signed up for the course were taught basic infantry tactics and maneuvers. The cadet battalion acted as a fire-fighting team and fired salutes and appeared in ceremonies and parades. During these early years, the single “Thursday Drill”, as it is known today, was conducted each day.
With the advent of WWI, more theoretical instruction was added to the cadet training. In 1916 Congress passed the National Defense Act, which created the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC). This provided the first coherent scheme for the military training at civilian schools. With war declared on Germany in 1917, the government allowed students enrolled in college cadet corps to qualify for commissions by taking special examinations. The longer a student’s association with a military training program, the better his chances for securing a higher rank. During the 1920’s, enrollment in ROTC was very high. The year 1927 was an important one for the ROTC program, because it was the year the “Cadets” were first introduced. This group was composed of college coeds who were picked by the cadets to represent their companies and battalions.
From 1932 until the outbreak of WWII, enrollment in the program grew each year about as steadily as the school’s enrollment. Then in 1941 when the U.S. entered WWII, enrollment doubled due to a need for officers. On October 22, 1946, General Dwight D. Eisenhower signed General Order No. 124. This order created a separate entity of the Army ROTC called Air ROTC units. Colorado State University, then named Colorado Agricultural and Mechanical College, was among the first schools to have an Air ROTC unit. In 1947 the responsibility for Air ROTC was assumed by the newly created U.S. Air Force.
The mandatory requirement for freshmen to take ROTC was dropped in 1962. Under provisions of the ROTC Revitalization Act of 1964, the two-year course for juniors and seniors was implemented at CSU in 1966, and women were added to the two cadet corps in 1969. In 1987, the ROTC program at the University of Northern Colorado was merged with the one at CSU to form a single cadet corps.
Military training and ROTC have made valuable contributions to the Universities, Colorado, and the Nation. The program has advanced from a makeshift drill team to a highly organized group of young men and women. Both ROTC programs have grown rapidly and have received regional and national recognition. The year 2016 marks 100 years of Army ROTC and 70 years of Air Force ROTC at Colorado State University.