In 1971, the U.S. Army established at Austin Peay State University the Army Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) for recruiting, training and commissioning future Army officers.
In the 40 years since, hundreds of cadets have been commissioned at APSU as second lieutenants in the Army. The program also has earned the reputation as one of the nation’s finest, having won several awards for training and management performance standards. In addition, the program has been the best in the nation and had the top cadet in the nation in previous years.
To celebrate 40 years of excellence, APSU will commemorate the anniversary of the ROTC program at 2:30 p.m., Thursday, Dec. 1 in the Memorial Health gymnasium. The public is invited to attend.
Keynote speaker will be Col. Paul Bontrager, commander of the 101st Combat Aviation Brigade of the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) at Fort Campbell, Ky., and an alumnus of APSU. He graduated from APSU in 1987 as an ROTC Distinguished Military Graduate (he was in the top 20 percent of cadets nationwide graduating that year) with a bachelor’s degree in political science.
The ceremony also will feature comments from APSU President Tim Hall, a state proclamation presented by state Rep. Joe Pitts, remarks by professor of military science Lt. Col. Robert Gordon and the presentation of ROTC awards earned during the fall semester.
In addition, the most recent commissionee of the program, 2nd Lt. Patrick Smith, will offer comments. Five cadets will be commissioned as second lieutenants during APSU’s Fall Commencement on Friday, Dec. 16.
A reception will conclude the anniversary program.
For more information about the ROTC 40th Anniversary Celebration, contact the APSU Department of Military Science and Leadership, where the ROTC program is housed, 931-221-6156. - Dr. Melony Shemberger
About Col. Paul Bontrager
A native of Goshen, Ind., Bontrager enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1982 and was assigned to the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) at Fort Campbell, Ky. In addition to a bachelor’s degree from Austin Peay State University, he holds a master’s degree in education from Kansas State University and a master’s degree in joint campaign planning and strategy from the National Defense University. He is a graduate of the Aviation Officer Basic and Advanced Courses, the Cavalry Leaders Course, the Combined Arms and Services Staff School, the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College, and the Joint Advanced Warfighting School.
In 1989 Bontrager completed Initial Entry Rotary Wing training and was assigned to B Troop, 2nd Squadron, 17th Cavalry Regiment at Fort Campbell, where he served as platoon leader, assistant S3 and cavalry liaison to the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault). Four years later, he was assigned to the 501st Aviation Battalion (Attack), Camp Page, Korea, where he served as the assistant operations officer and the B Company commander. Then in 1994 Bontrager was assigned to 1st Squadron, 17th Cavalry Regiment, 82nd Airborne Division, Fort Bragg, N.C., where he served as the assistant operations officer and then the C Troop commander.
In 1997 he was assigned to 3rd Squadron, 16th Cavalry Regiment at Fort Knox, Ky., where he was chief of Air Cavalry Operations for the U.S. Army Armor Center. A year later, he was assigned to Flight Concepts Division, Fort Eustis, Va., where he served in numerous staff and command positions. In 2006 he assumed command of the 7th Squadron, 17th Cavalry Regiment at Fort Campbell and commanded until 2008 when he returned to Fort Eustis to command Flight Concepts Division. Bontrager returned to Fort Campbell to assume command of the 101st Combat Aviation Brigade in June 2011.
Bontrager’s awards and badges include the Legion of Merit, the Bronze Star Medal w/4 OLC, Defense Meritorious Service Medal w/1 OLC, Meritorious Service Medal w/1 OLC, Air Medal w/numeral 2, Army Commendation Medal w/3 OLC, Joint Service Achievement Medal, Army Achievement Medal w/2 OLC, Good Conduct Medal, Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal, Afghanistan Campaign Medal, Iraqi Campaign Medal, Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary and Service Medals, Korean Defense Service Medal, NATO Medals, MFO Medal, Kuwaiti Liberation Medal, Meritorious Unit Citation and the Master Army Aviator, Air Assault, Master Parachutist, Combat Action and Military Free Fall Badges, German Free Fall Wings and the Ranger Tab.