Florida A&M University student is making history in the Naval Reserve Officer Training Corps. It has been more than four years since a Battalion Naval Commander Officer has been a black male.
Eric James, this semester’s NROTC battalion commander said last semester, people who are active in military duty and work on FAMU’s campus chose the student battalion commander for spring 2008.
“In ROTC, we have staff and we have a student battalion staff,” said Eric James, 20, a junior business administration student from Jacksonville. They base it on overall performance, leadership and how you can meet the standards. It’s a semester-long position.”
James said what qualified him for battalion commander was his experience being battalion executive officer and battalion operations officer last semester.
Some of the basic functions of BNCO are responsibility for the performance and well being of the battalion and being the necessary liaison for the battalion. The professor of naval science through the battalion adviser and the unit executive officer ensures that the battalion complies with all midshipmen regulations and other pertinent instructions.
The BNCO also conducts a weekly staff meeting to maintain a smooth flow of information and directions and provides written reports to the battalion adviser on the progress of planned midshipmen activities on a weekly basis.
Lieutenant Alvin D. Toney, academic adviser and assistant NROTC professor, said Eric received a unanimous vote out of about 50 students in the program.
“He’s the best midshipman we have,” Toney said. “When they are here by scholarship, they’re called midshipmen.”
Juanita Hopkins, a senior nursing student from Atlanta and member of NROTC, said, “This is my last year and this is my first time we have had a black male BNCO.”
Hopkins said James was chosen as BNCO because NROTC wanted a change in leadership. She said in the past, the commander has been a member of MECET, a program for marines who are prior enlisted.
“They saw they could put the position in him and he will do a great job. Most of the past BNCO’s has been prior marines,” said Hopkins, 21.
Because James is a junior, Toney said James getting picked for battalion commander for the students at NROTC was unordinary.
“That position is typically reserved for a senior, but he showed us he’s a true leader,” Toney said.
With James being battalion officer, he has the opportunity to be an officer in the military when he graduates.
Toney said NROTC recruits for a training corps, which recruits for military officers. He said when James earns his degree he is going to perform well in the military.
“Typically, we take the best and brightest students,” Toney said. “I think he’s already officer material.”
Many of James’ peers believe he deserves the honor of battalion commander.
“Out of our class, he’s really motivated and on the top of his game,” said Angela Idleburgh, 20, a junior criminal justice student from Tampa. “He keeps others motivated.”
Idleburgh said his personality would help him lead the rest of the students in NROTC.
“He’s a straight forward guy,” she said. “He’s a good multi-tasker. Ultimately, he’s really responsible for everyone.”
Hopkins said when NROTC students wake up at 5 a.m. in the morning to do physical training, James is always energetic.
“Every time he comes in [the Battalion unit], he’s very motivated,” Hopkins said. “Eric to me is pretty good overall. He’s very trustworthy and reliable.”