Army ROTC alumni mark 90th anniversary

July 19th, 2010  |  by  |  Published in UHAA News

Lt. Col. Rod Laszlo was honored during the University of Hawaiʻi Army ROTC Military Ball May 1, 2010 along with his wife Pam and son Colin. A professor of military science at UH Mānoa since 2006, Laszlo was recognized for his contributions to UH and the community.

Rod Laszlo headshot

Lt. Col. Rod Laszlo

The UH ROTC Alumni Association presented Laszlo with an Officer’s Saber in recognition of his retirement in June. He also received the Hawaiʻi Medal of Achievement from the state adjutant general, Maj. Gen. Robert Lee, and the UH Leadership Coin of Excellence from Army National Guard Maj. Gen. Jeffery L. Arnold (BA ’73 Mānoa).

Rep. Mark Takai presented the state Legislature’s recognition on the occasion of UH Army ROTC’s 90th Year Anniversary.

The military ball was the concluding event of a five-day, all year UH ROTC reunion. Retired Col. Ed Gayagas (BEd ’62 Mānoa) provided the following account of the anniversary celebration.

The year was 1920. The exact date cannot be pin-pointed, but a few gentlemen signed on to join the newly established Reserve Officers’ Training Program at the University of Hawaiʻi. The recent crisis in international affairs and the events of WWI had created a need for qualified military leaders. As a federal land-grant college, UH was expected to make ROTC a mandatory course for all beginning male students. Some joined as a matter of pride, and some joined out of a sense of patriotism.

This was the start of the UH Army ROTC legacy—beginning a proud and honorable journey of 90 years. It has the distinction of being the only ROTC organization in the nation to own a battle streamer as a result of cadets’ voluntary participation in the defense of Oʻahu shoreline during WWII.

The 90th Reunion celebration April 27 to May 1 was a week to remember. Alumni and friends hosted the opening ceremony on Tuesday morning. Most members were from reunion classes of ’60s and ’70s, with the oldest from the class of ’54 and newest from the class of ’09. Alumni on active duty came from as far away as Washington, D.C., and Georgia.

Army National Guard Maj. Gen. Jeffery L. Arnold (BA ’73 Mānoa) attended the reunion during his two-week leave from his assignment as a reserve officer from Georgia. The UH Alumni Association, the Cadet Battalion and the ROTC Department worked together to support the reunion activities. Contributors from as far as Bangladesh and Afghanistan sponsored cadets for the dining-in banquet.

Activities began with a mentorship meeting of cadets from the military science IV class. Alumni veterans of the Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts made a panel presentation. Panelists included Arnold, Maj. Gen. Kelly Lau, retired Col. Ed Gayagas (BEd ’62 Mānoa), Howard Lee, Lt. Col. Cynthia Teramae (BA ’89 Mānoa), Capt. Ivan Sugai and 1st Lt. Caruso. Farrington High School followed with a drill team demonstration.

Approximately 20 alumni participated in a two-hour private tour of Pearl Harbor, followed by a pupu party catered by retired Lt. Col. Les Bise (BA ’74 Mānoa). The event included a tour of the entire harbor, circling Ford Island and visiting the piers and locations of sunken WWII ships.

Wednesday morning was the regularly scheduled physical training run for cadets from lower campus through the upper campus. Arnold, Gayagas and Lt. Col. Courtney Vares-Lum (BA ’89 Mānoa) participated. Arnold, Gayagas and Lt. Col. Bob Takao served the cadets shave ice at the conclusion.

Thursday morning’s physical training at Magic Island brought UH Warrior Battalion cadets together with at-risk teens participating in the Hawaiʻi Army National Guard’s six-week Youth Challenge Program. Cadet Greg Palolo, 18, from Lanaʻi, is working on his high school diploma/GED. Upon completion of his training and schooling, he plans to enlist in the U.S. Marine Corps.

The purpose of the beach PT is two-fold: to have fun and to gain orientation in the skills of beach challenges. There were five stations—boat operations, treading water with full gear, five-gallon carry, cadence run and surfboard challenge. Polynesian culture permeated the air; the cadence run was sounded out in Samoan.

The ROTC golf tournament on April 30 at Navy-Marine golf course brought 24 golfers out for golf, followed by a pupu dinner and awards at Schooners Restaurant at Pearl Harbor. The winner was retired Cmdr. Kent Youel, with a low gross of 75.

Reunion week culminated with the Military Ball on May 1 at the Hale Koa Hotel Lūʻau Garden, where more than 300 military, guests and family members gathered. Following presentation of the colors and preparation of the traditional drink, cadets performed Samoan, Hawaiian and mixed dances. Strict military dining etiquette was in effect; infractions (such as unbuttoned uniform, wrongly worn accoutrement) brought a penalty imposed by the Officer of The Mess. Retired officers participated by wearing their uniforms from their period of service.

Arnold, a reserve officer serving as the deputy G1 at the Pentagon, was the guest speaker. A special segment of the program was dedicated to fallen heroes from Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan, including 1st Lt. Frank Rodriguez (BA ’67 Mānoa), 1st Lt. Brian Kong (BA ’69 Mānoa), 1st Lt. Tom Blevins (BA ’65 Mānoa), 1st Lt. Jeremy Wolfe (’02), 1st Lt. Nainoa Hoe (BBA ’00, BBA ’03 Mānoa) and 1st Lt. Jonathan Brostrom (BS ’06 Mānoa).

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