HUNTSVILLE, Ala. -- Army ROTC programs produce almost 70 percent of the officers that enter the Army each year. In all of ROTC history, that adds up to about 650,000 officers.
ROTC cadets at Alabama A&M University rehearsed Wednesday for their commissioning ceremony—an event that ends one chapter, and begins another.
"This is your day, so that means you're on stage, and you're performing," said LTC Taurus Smith, professor of military sciences at the university.
He says the ceremony is the cadet's chance to show their family and friends that they're ready to take on the responsibility of a military leader.
"We say that only 25 percent of the American population can meet the requirements to serve, and only one percent actually do it," he said.
These cadets are part of that one percent.
"We're kind of part of a bigger picture than yourself, and that's something they really teach you. The Army values, things like that, is stuff that makes you want to keep going," said cadet Siggy Falealii.
"The most important part about the ceremony is when we go to give our speeches, because for me personally, I'm not going to make the ceremony about me, I'm going to make it about everyone who helped me get to where I'm at today," said cadet Victor Lightfoot.
The cadets all agree that the ROTC program has provided them with skills that will benefit them in all facets of life.
"It's provided me with an opportunity to become a leader," Lightfoot said. "It's gotten me outside my comfort zone because it's easier to follow than it is to lead."
Thursday, seven new second lieutenants will enter the armed forces, ready for the first day of the rest of their lives.
"Coming back and having people thank you for your service, stuff like that, makes it all worth it," Falealii said.