ROTC seniors – dressed in their Army service uniforms – entered the room at the Indiana Country Club on Friday under an arch of sabers. 

They were introduced and escorted as they entered the dining-out, which was hosted by the ROTC program. The event is a celebration of military tradition but also honored the 22 graduating ROTC seniors, including one senior in the program at Saint Francis University.

“Every mistake you make, you learn from,” said guest speaker Col. Matthew Rauscher, a 1995 IUP graduate and commander of the second ROTC brigade. “My biggest mistake was also probably the greatest learning lesson ever.”

Rauscher was referring to the time he was a platoon leader and accidentally put a Bradley, an armed troop carrier, in a 12-foot ditch. 

He had to report the incident to his battalion commander, who proceeded to tell Rauscher about one of his own mistakes and said “I’m still standing” to follow up the story.

“Whatever it is … master your skill set,” Rauscher said. “Own it. Just go do it.”

Several awards were given to the seniors, including one to Cadet Elizabeth Coppella (exercise science). She received her award for being in the top 10 percent of all graduating army ROTC seniors in the nation. This is determined by placement on an Order of Merit List (OML), which is based on many items including GPA, physical fitness test score, rank at advanced training camp and points for some extracurricular activities. 

“I feel like I don’t deserve it any more than anyone else in our class,” Coppella said. “We have such a strong class.”

After graduation, she wants to complete her Ph.D. in physical therapy. 

She applied to schools and is waiting for replies.

This is the first time attending a dining-out for Cadet Regan Grove (freshman, nursing).

“I like the formality of it,” Grove said. “It is something different to see than what we normally do. I like seeing how people are decorated (having awards and accomplishments).”

“I came to IUP last year as a sophomore,” said Cadet Walt Lober (junior, criminology and political science).

This is the second dining-out he attended.

“This is a break from the regular, old routine of PT (physical training),” Lober said, “and lab, which is basic soldier skills class, including anything from first aid to land navigation to attacking the enemy. It’s nice to dress up, see everyone and their significant others.”

Cadet Dakota Keith (senior, criminology) was the officer in charge of planning the ball. He began planning in January.

“A lot of work went into it,” Keith said.

Approximately 85 cadets from IUP and Saint Francis attended, along with their dates, family members and alumni, totaled about 196 people, according to Keith.

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