One cadet’s hands are on the ground — his legs use another cadet’s shoulders as a brace — as he too places his feet on the man behind him. A line of about eight men form, and fans at Florida A&M University’s football games cheer at, the ROTC “pushup team.”
The effect is similar to a caterpillar, and as the cadets do their pushups, a wave is created showcasing their strength.
Pushups are also a form of punishment in the U.S Army. When a cadet commits an offense, depending on what it is, punishment is applied.
Many students say the ROTC is just another form of hazing.
Major Joseph Kelly, a professor of military science in FAMU’s Army ROTC program, was in Orlando with his cadets during the 2011 Florida Classic when Robert Champion was killed during a hazing ritual.
“I heard about the death when I came back,” Kelly said. “It was painful to hear.”
Kelly said he immediately felt an array of emotions: mostly sadness and anger. He said he also had a lot questions.
Cadets are seen as sensors, and because everyone is a leader in their own right, Kelly wondered what the band students were doing.
“I never… pass judgment before all of the facts are out,” Kelly said. “My heart and condolences go out to the Champion family, and I hope they find some kind of peace somewhere, somehow.”
Kelly said the ROTC hasn’t had any problems with hazing, but some of their methods could be considered hazing.
“We do corrective training,” Kelly said. “When students don’t conform or do some of the things as far as respect or courtesy, or say, they say something that’s inappropriate, a corrective measure we have used is for a cadet to do pushups.”
According to the Inspector General’s “Corrective Training/Corrective Action Guide for Leaders,” punishment has three goals: to protect society from a repetition of the offense, to remodel the offender so he/she will not repeat the offense and to deter others from considering and committing the offense.
Shaun Bain, a first-year pharmacy student, said ROTC is training students for the real world.
“There are a lot of qualities that need to be met, and they’re just getting ready for it,” Bain said.
But Kelly said the army has modified the corrective-training technique. Personnel can’t implement the pushup technique as often as before and a cadet cannot be forced to do more than 10 pushups at a time.
In the old days, cadets would be told “drop and give me 20” or “drop and I’ll tell you when to get up,” Kelly said. “It’s not like that anymore.”
Kelly said the push-up corrective-training technique went hand-in-hand with physical fitness value, but now the punishment fits the crime and counseling and corrective training is tailored to the offense.
Cadets Anthony Scavella and Rashaun Head said corrective training made them better men.
“With corrective training, if you don’t have to go through anything, you won’t respect it [as much],” said Head, a fourth-year criminal justice student from Atlanta.
Both cadets reminisced on the corrective training method they endured after missing personal training (PT).
“I had to do active duty,” Scavella said. Scavella had to attend all army events and was required to write a paper on why PT is important.
“Since you’re taking the army’s time, that corrective training takes your time away in essence,” said Scavella, a fourth-year political science student from Miami.
Head said his experiences were more physical.
“I had to flip tires for a good 30 – 45 minutes,” he said. “It reminds me that I’m not going to miss PT anymore because I’ll be out here in 95 degree weather in my uniform flipping tires.”
Physical exercise is permitted, but the Inspector General’s guide states, “Consideration must be given to the exercises, repetitions and total number of times each day that exercise is used for corrective action to limit the potential for overtraining and injuries.”
The two cadets haven’t seen much rebellion against corrective training. Scavella has mostly seen rebellion from students who “don’t know what they’re getting themselves into.” But Head has seen a correlation between students who aren’t on scholarships rebelling more.
“I’m not getting paid to do this, so why should I be out here doing these push-ups,” Head said about the students.
Head said ROTC cadets have to be careful about what they wear and that being a part of ROTC is a lifestyle.
“It’s kind of strict, but it makes you respect life more,” Head said.