The LSU ROTC program fosters perhaps the University’s first and oldest student organization and its oldest tradition – the military heritage that has been part of the institution since its beginning under General William Tecumseh Sherman, who is believed to have given LSU the nickname “Ole War Skule.” For a number of years, the campus was a former military post, located adjacent to the Mississippi River near what is now downtown Baton Rouge.
Today, the same Pentagon Barracks provide space for state offices and other elected officials, and one can look out from them onto the official gardens of the state capitol and view the grounds on which LSU cadets once drilled and practiced military training. Since 1926, the LSU Corps of Cadets has been at home on the present campus of more than 2,000 acres.
Since the University’s establishment in 1860, the institution’s military tradition has undergone many changes. What was once a compulsory training institution for male students eventually transformed into a two-year mandatory ROTC commitment for incoming freshman. Upon completion of the two-year commitment, cadets could apply for an advanced ROTC program qualifying them to receive an officer’s commission upon graduation.
Due to rising tensions from the Vietnam War in the 1960s, the LSU Board of Supervisors had no choice but to make the ROTC program voluntary. Prior to 1969, when the military program changed from compulsory to voluntary, the Corps of Cadets numbered over 3,000 and was one of the top programs in the nation. Enrollment decreased significantly after 1969, but in recent years both the Army and Air Force have experienced increases in the number of students joining their programs. Also, while LSU does not have a Naval ROTC program, many students participate in the Naval ROTC program at Southern University and as such, are considered part of the LSU Corps of Cadets.
Now with more than 300 cadets involved, the LSU Corps of Cadets serves proudly as part of the legacy of “the Long Purple Line” that will always remain with them and others through membership in Cadets of the Ole War Skule.