North Georgia College and State University: Senior Military College
There are many routes into the military, but if you want to be a commissioned officer, you must follow one of four general paths. You can either apply to attend O.C.S. (Officer Candidate School) from the Enlisted ranks (often colloquially referred to as "going to the Dark side"), commission through a service academy, commission from a senior military college, or submit a Direct Commission packet as a civilian professional. Whatever method is utilized, an individual must attain at least a Bachelor's degree before receiving a commission. For more information, visit here: http://www.goarmy.com/careers/becoming_an_officer.jsp The five Service Academies are: United States Military Academy (the famous West Point), United States Naval Academy (known as Annapolis), United States Air Force Academy (U.S.A.F.A.), United States Coast Guard Academy, and United States Merchant Marine Academy (King's Point). These academies are federally-mandated organizations meant expressly for the purpose of commissioning service members into the U.S. Military's respective branches.
One path (the path I utilized) is to enroll in ROTC. Many institutions offer small ROTC programs that commission tiny numbers of cadets each year, but Senior Military Colleges (SMCs) are Department of Defense recognized institutions that are held to certain yearly commissioning quotas. There are six of these colleges: The Citadel (Charleston, South Carolina), Virginia Military Institute ("VMI", Lexington, Virginia), Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (Blacksburg, Virginia), Norwich University (Norwich, Vermont), Texas A&M University (College Station, Texas), and North Georgia College and State University (Dahlonega, Georgia). Each of these contains a "Corps of Cadets" which is the organization mandated to produce commissioned officers. All but one has the capacity to produce officers for the Marine Corps, Navy, Coast Guard, and Army. The final one mentioned, North Georgia, is the only one that exclusively produces Army Officers, and is the Senior Military College that I attended. Its famous Price Memorial Hall is visible below.
SMCs all have their own unique traits. A civilian can attend one of the programs for all four years and decide not to take a commission into the military. Many at North Georgia take this path. North Georgia, whose Corps is also known as the "Boar's Head Brigade", has one of the smaller Corps of Cadets, and numbered from 600-750 during the years I attended (versus the approximately 2,200 of Texas A&M). The difference between an ROTC experience at a civilian college and one at a military college is that military colleges immerse cadets in the training environment, which consists of mandatory physical training, military drill, field training, and ROTC courses. Freshmen cadets typically have little to no freedom, and are restricted to quarters from several months to the entire freshman year. The first year serves as the initiation year into the Corps.
North Georgia College and State University is located in the northeast corner of Georgia in Dahlonega. It was first begun as North Georgia Agricultural College in 1873, and has the distinction as being the first Senior Military College to accept women into the program. Though it varies from year to year, the ratio of women in the North Georgia Corps of Cadets hovers around one quarter (interestingly, about the same ratio of women to men as the Army's largest Basic Training facility at Fort Jackson). The initial week of training at North Georgia is referred to as FROG (Freshman Recruit Orientation Group) Week, and involves heavy physical training and rapid military indoctrination. A video below shows some highlights of an NGCSU FROG Week.
SMCs all seek to emulate the military system. The Corps of Cadets is generally organized into a Brigade of cadets which have different companies. At North Georgia, we had two different battalions (1st and 2nd) organized into 6 companies (Alpha, Bravo, Charlie, Delta, Echo, and Foxtrot). The companies consisted of 70-110 cadets each, and competed against each other throughout the semester for academic and athletic honors. Within the cadet system, cadets all emulate leadership positions by academic year. First years normally take lower enlisted positions (E-1 to E-4, Recruit to Corporal). Sophomores are given entry leadership positions like Team Leader, Squad Leader, and Clerk positions (E-5, E-6). Juniors take the remainder of the upper enlisted positions, while seniors fill officer slots. Leadership activities continue five days per week, and can generally take around 2-3 hours out of each day depending on the cadet's level of responsibility.
North Georgia, like other Senior Military Colleges, is somewhat like the military in that it wears military uniforms and learns basic military skills (like land navigation and combatives) during college. North Georgia actually tends to stay closer to true military uniforms; when I attended from 2005-2009, we only had one unique uniform not worn by the military that was standard dress, and we typically only wore it for parades. Obviously, the insignia differs greatly from military specifications, but even this is limited, as many cadets have prior military experience as enlisted soldiers and are permitted to wear these devices on their uniforms as per military regulations. Other military colleges have some famous unique uniforms. Texas A&M cadets wear ubiquitous nearly knee-high shiny leather boots once they have earned them, for example. VMI cadets wear Civil War style uniforms as a part of their tradition.
The Junior year of college is probably most important for cadets. During this year, we trained in the Pre-Camp program, which was intended to prepare those cadets intending to commission for "Camp" or "LDAC" (Leadership Development and Assessment Course) program. This approximately 33-day training course (length changes from year to year depending upon funding and planning) grades cadet leadership abilities from campuses all over the country (including non-SMC programs). Depending upon GPA, physical fitness assessments, and performance at LDAC, cadets are placed on an Accessions roster to determine their placement into the U.S. Army. The Accessions process was presented to us over several days before we went through it; the scoring rubric is highly complicated and nearly random, but in the end it determines the military "branch" or job that a cadet receives.
There is, in fact, much more to the tradition of military colleges than meets the eye. Military College traditions are an embedded part of the local culture, but many people are not aware of their existence or function. At first glance, North Georgia seems like an ordinary tiny college town, but if you are on campus at 7:00 A.M. or 5:00 P.M., you will see everything stopped and hear the boom of a cannon as the flag raises and lowers in reveille and retreat. Only Senior Military Colleges, Service Academies, and military installations retain this privilege.