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Yale brings back Air Force ROTC after long absence

The Air Force Reserve Officers' Training Corps is going back to Yale University under an agreement signed Monday, joining the Naval ROTC in returning to the Ivy League campus after a decades-long absence.

Yale had been among other prominent universities without ROTC programs until May, when it agreed to bring back the Naval ROTC after Congress voted to allow gays to serve openly in the military.

The Air Force and Naval detachments are expected to open at the New Haven campus in the fall of 2012.

Air Force Secretary Michael Donley said at a signing ceremony that a presence on campus will make it easier for the Air Force to engage with some of the brightest students in America and provide the Yale community with an everyday example of service members who defend the country.

"It will be a reminder that while the United States military's all-volunteer force remains one of our nation's strengths, this strength depends upon broad participation by its citizens — participation that includes fellow Yale colleagues and must include men and women from every part of America," Donley said.

Donley and Yale President Richard Levin signed the agreement establishing the Air Force ROTC detachment. It will enroll cadets from Yale and other Connecticut universities that participate in crosstown arrangements.

"Yale students will make great contributions to the Air Force, as they do in whatever career they choose," Levin said. "I am pleased that the Air Force has taken this important step to make it easier for the most talented young men and women who aspire to leadership in our military to gain a Yale education. In my view both the military and Yale will benefit from this relationship."

Some Yale students have been involved with ROTC, but they have attended training at other colleges. Earlier this year, two Yale graduates who took Air Force ROTC classes at the University of Connecticut at Storrs were commissioned as second lieutenants.

An Air Force instructor at the University of Connecticut, Maj. James Hamma, said only one Yale undergraduate is currently involved in the ROTC program at UConn. But he said more are likely to join now that students in the New Haven area will no longer have to drive inland to Storrs.

"It makes it a lot easier for students, especially commuter students, to try out the ROTC program," Hamma said. "It's a big positive step."

The Air Force has a long tradition at Yale, which was among the first schools to host an Air Force ROTC detachment in 1946.

Donley noted that several of the Air Force's earliest civilian leaders were Yale graduates. He said other prominent Yale graduates who served in the Air Force include former U.S. Sen. Arlen Specter, former U.S. Ambassador to China Clark Randt and former President George W. Bush.

The ROTC was disbanded at Yale in 1970, a time of anti-Vietnam War sentiment when the program left many other prominent universities. Colleges more recently kept it off campus because of the military's policy on gays, which the colleges considered discriminatory. Congress repealed the so-called "don't ask, don't tell" policy, which prohibited gay and lesbian personnel from being open about their sexuality, in December.

The university said votes by the Yale College faculty on May 5 paved the way for the re-establishment of ROTC on campus, and the university's governing board voted its approval on May 24. Yale also took last year a survey of undergraduates that found "an overwhelming majority" supported having ROTC on campus.

Since the return of the Naval ROTC was announced, some high school seniors applying to Yale have expressed interest in the program as have a handful of enrolled freshman, according to Navy Lt. Molly Crabbe, who has visited frequently from an office at the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Mass., to help start the Yale program. She said officials are hoping at least 15 freshmen, from an incoming class of 1,300, will attend Yale next year on Naval ROTC scholarships.

"Things are going splendidly," she said. "We have had unparalleled support on campus."

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