Moccasin Battalion Wins MacArthur Award as Top ROTC Program

Feb 22, 2018

by Cary McMullen
Publications editor
Originally appeared in Southern News Magazine

Florida Southern’s Army ROTC program has long represented excellence in preparing future military officers, but now it has attained recognition as one of the most elite ROTC programs in the nation. The Moccasin Battalion has been named the winner of the 2017 General Douglas MacArthur Award as the top ROTC program in the U.S. Army Cadet Command’s 6th Brigade, which includes 39 programs in five Southeastern states, the Virgin Islands, and Puerto Rico. Just eight ROTC programs out of 275 nationwide are presented the award each year.

This is the first time Florida Southern has received the prestigious award, which is presented by the General Douglas MacArthur Foundation and Army’s Cadet Command. Winners are the most successful of the Cadet Commands’ units in accomplishing their mission of training and commissioning the majority of the lieutenants entering the Army each year. The award, presented each year since 1989, recognizes the ideals of “duty, honor and country” as advocated by General MacArthur.

The 6th Brigade Commander, Col. Nelson Kraft, noted the “competition among the programs for the MacArthur Award was very close, but FSC clearly distinguished themselves in relation to mission, production, training, readiness, university support, and other noteworthy achievements.”

Of cadets in the 2017 Moccasin Battalion, 33 percent were distinguished military graduates, who are in the top 20 percent of the nation’s senior cadets, and three were in the top 10 percent nationwide. The average GPA of the class was 3.5, 12 received academic honors, and three were selected for medical school, law school, or Ph.D. study. During Cadet Summer Training at Fort Knox, Ky., FSC tied for the most number of cadets with maximum scores on the Army Physical Fitness test.

Lt. Col. Rocky Vaira, professor of military science and commander of the Moccasin Battalion, said, “I'm extremely proud of all the cadets, the Army cadre, and the Department of the Army civilians in our program. The award is truly a testament of their hard work and dedication, but also it was only made possible with the strong partnership and truly amazing support from Florida Southern College and the Lakeland community.”

Alyvia Orsini, the battalion’s cadet commander and a senior biotechnology major, said it is an advantage being part of a small, close-knit program.

“We’re not just another number here. The cadre knows us well. We’re all really good friends and work well together,” she said.

Orsini, who joined the ROTC program after coming to FSC to play lacrosse, added that the battalion’s mentoring program helps young cadets develop and adapt to the program’s demands.

Currently the Moccasin Battalion has 82 cadets, including cadets from cross-enrolled programs at Southeastern University and Polk State College. In May, 17 seniors will receive their commissions as lieutenants in the U.S. Army.