We’re taking a break from our series of posts about our European Tour to bring the focus back to the U.S. in honor of its 239th birthday. Earlier this week, our President, Stuart Streit, got a chance to sit down with rising sophomore Kieran Kelly, a Midshipman in the Navy ROTC.
Stuart Streit: What made you decide to join the Navy ROTC Program?
Kieran Kelly: My brother Rory is a First Lieutenant in the Marine Corps and my brother Joe is an Ensign in the Coast Guard—both are tremendous role models in my life. Because of their service, I was first exposed to the idea of a military-related career around my freshman year in high school, certainly a formative period for a young man. At different times in high school, I was very invested in rugby, math club, and chorus. While my involvement in some of these activities ebbed and flowed throughout the years, the desire to serve remained constant. When I discovered the ROTC Program it seemed to be the perfect match for me: An opportunity to attend the University of Notre Dame and also earn a commission in the U.S. Navy, a branch that interested me because of its technical emphasis, both in academic rigor and in the Fleet.
SS: Rugby, math club, and chorus…I feel like there’s usually not a lot of crossover between those.
KK: [Laughs]. No, usually not a lot there.
SS: I suppose that kind of explains how you ended up being in both ROTC and Glee Club. As a civilian who doesn’t know how these things work, I’ve been wondering what the service commitment after college is. Can you explain that?
KK: A commissioned officer from the Navy ROTC Program incurs an eight-year service commitment—five active and three reserve—although this can sometimes be dependent on the community you join. For instance, those who pursue the aviation pipeline will usually have another couple years tacked on because of the extensive flight training needed to become a pilot. Of course, you can continue to serve past your commitment, as many officers do. From decade-old Department of Defense data I was able to dig up via Google, there is a 50% retention rate for Navy ROTC commissioned officers after the 8 year mark, 38% after the 11 year mark, and 32% after the 15 year mark.
SS: Couldn’t have expected less from a Stats major. Alright, here’s another thing I’ve been wondering: Does ROTC pay for your education? I know some people are on scholarship, but I don’t know how exactly that works either.
KK: The scholarship application was very similar to that of any college scholarship – a bevy of hard-copy forms, essays, and interviews. Midshipmen that are awarded the scholarship do have their tuition, some fees (incredibly, this does not include football season tickets), and certain travel expenses paid for by the Navy. We are particularly fortunate at Notre Dame to have one of the largest Navy ROTC Programs in the country (~100 Midshipmen) and presumably, a larger number of scholarships from which to draw than other schools. I’m not sure on exact figures but my guess would be that around 85-90% of the Battalion is currently on scholarship.
SS: What does a typical day look like for you, with Statistics, ROTC, and Glee Club?
KK: An early morning workout followed by breakfast, a full day of classes and a judiciously planned power nap. Off to Glee Club rehearsal, dinner at South, and then Club Hesburgh. Surviving day in and day out all comes down to time management. If I have twenty minutes in between classes I’m going to find something to cross off my list, even if it’s a mundane task. It all adds up in the long run and less time wasted translates to more Z’s before the alarm goes off again the next morning. Glee Club rehearsals at 5:00 PM really help split up my day, and are a fantastic stress-reliever. It was important during the year to realize that my body performed best going full throttle for a couple hours, taking a break, and then putting the pedal to the metal again. On the other side of the coin. though, there is always a point in the late-night grind where staring at a textbook and re-reading the same page for the fifth time isn’t helping me any, and I’m better off just calling it a night.
SS: Wow—that really is a full load. Impressive, man. Do you stay that busy during the summer? How does ROTC factor in between semesters? I’m assuming that internships and that sort of thing aren’t as much of a priority, with your post-graduation life somewhat mapped out.
KK: As it turns out, summers in NROTC are pretty mapped out for you as well. The Navy sends Midshipmen on required summer cruises—think training, not yachting. The first summer serves as an introduction to the Navy of sorts, as each Midshipman spends a week with the Marines, and the Aviation, Submarine, and Surface communities. As you progress through the ROTC program your summers become more and more specialized within your (or the Navy’s) community of choice. Summer cruises are around 4-6 weeks long so you still have the remaining summer break available to take a class, work a part-time job, stay fit, and/or lay around the house. Because I had a shoulder surgery earlier in the year, I didn’t go on summer cruise this time around and will make it up at a later date. Most of my summer has so far been dedicated to getting my shoulder back in shape, making money, and Facebook stalking any and all Glee Club members for photo tours of Europe.
SS: Oh boy. I need to do a better job watching what I post. Am I correct in believing that I should be calling you Midshipman Kelly?
KK: Haha, well I mean, I guess you’re not exactly wrong, but it’d be like a non-Glee Club friend referring to you as President Streit … you’d definitely do a double-take.
SS: Yeah, as much as I’d enjoy the respect, that would probably feel a little weird.
KK: While we’re on that topic though, one reason I didn’t consider the Army was that I would be addressed as Cadet Kelly, the title of which I understand was a truly awful Disney movie starring Hilary Duff. I’m being somewhat facetious.
SS: [Laughs]. That’s incredible. I like the foresight. Ok, you’re a busy guy, so we’ll end this with one last question. What does “God. Country. Notre Dame.” mean to you?
KK: For those who don’t know, this is the famous motto engraved above the Basilica’s East door. It is part of a memorial that honors the Notre Dame men who sacrificed their lives in the Great War. Notre Dame and the military have a storied relationship that stretches far beyond the football games played against the service academies every fall. Most notably, the Navy used Notre Dame’s campus as a training base in 1943, providing Notre Dame the funding it needed to keep its doors open during the nation’s economic troubles. ROTC was then formally established in the decade following WWII and the military has had a visible presence on Our Lady’s campus ever since. In my interpretation, the motto serves as a reminder for us to stay vigilant and recognize that each of us is responsible in our duties to faith, patriotism, and community.
Here’s to a great 239th Independence Day,
MIDN 3/C Kelly, USNR
Glee Club would like to thank Kieran, as well as Walker Embrey, Navy ROTC, for their service. We would also like to thank all Alums that have served or are currently serving. Happy birthday, America. And many, many more.