On the Semantics of Service

Arma Borealis takes a look at Colin Goddard’s claim that he was in the army for two years, when he was an ROTC cadet for two years. This isn’t semantics I’d get too worked up over, but I was never in the military. For those that have been, I understand this kind of distinction is more important.

UPDATE: More from Chris in Alaska of Arma Borealis in the comments.

30 thoughts on “On the Semantics of Service”

  1. I’m not military but from what I understand claiming what Goddard does is a big no no, especially if using it to bolster your credentials.

      1. DD214 is your discharge form..It has what you did while you were in, rank on discharge, type of discharge, etc…

      2. It stands for Department of Defense form 214 which is your military service record. It lists your period of service, schools, tours, MOS,awards,rank upon separation, etc.

        PS Goddard is a turd of trying to use this as some sort of leverage like he’s been there and done that

      3. To give you an idea of where ROTC stands. I was a cadet in one four Federal military academies (U.S. Coast Guard Academy).

        For the time I was considered Active Service. Have medals (unearned in my personal opinion – was just in at the right time). And a DD214.

        My time was brief, and largely academic. But it was Active Duty. So without the acknowledgement of a service record. There is no “official” military service to stand on.

  2. I was never in the military, and it pisses the hell out of me that anyone would falsely claim to have served alongside honorable and dedicated men and woman.

  3. A DD214 is a certificate of release from active duty, normally issued at the end of an enlistment or upon retirement. It is the final, verified record of a member’s service in the armed forces. It is the document used by the VA, that you need for a military funeral, that is used for veteran’s preference, etc.

    Cadets can generally be in one of two statuses: Contracted or not contracted. If you’re contracted, then you’re getting money and you’re In the Army Now. If you flunk out of school, then Uncle Sam can send your butt to Afghanistan as a PFC (enlisted). It is called Involuntary Active Duty.

    Generally a contract is only required at year three of a traditional four year program (VA Tech: “It is at this point that all cadets must sign a contract to continue on.” — http://www.armyrotc.vt.edu/prospectivecadets/ProspectiveCadets.html). The contract means that you get money for school, but it also means that you commit to a term of service (usually 8 years — 4 on active duty, 4 as a reservist) after graduation.

    The Army ROTC site clearly states the payback for a four year scholarship on Uncle Sugar’s dime:
    Serve full time in the Army for four years”


    In other words, you can “try out” ROTC for two years before committing. Some folks contract sooner (to get the four year scholarship), but Uncle Sam usually doesn’t let people walk away for free after taking his school money for two years — especially not in the time frame Colin was enrolled, at the height of Iraq and the Army plus-up. Release at that point wouldn’t be because “the Army isn’t for me.” Release would be because you either negotiate to write a hefty check to pay back the scholarships you’ve been advanced, have a medical issue the army doesn’t want to deal with, or so on. The Army has you — you’ve agreed to go to Involuntary Active Duty as a PFC if the cadet jack up so they don’t need to work with you if you’ve just had enough. You don’t have the option to choose either to get called up as an enlisted man OR pay back the money. You only get to pay back the dough and get out if Uncle Sam agrees.

    Here’s typical verbage:
    I understand all scholarship Cadets (MS II and above) and non-scholarship MS III and above Cadets who voluntarily breach their ROTC contract (e.g. discontinuation of military career objectives, other offers of employment, etc.) may be directed to serve as an enlisted soldier (Involuntary Active Duty (IAD)) if the terms of their contract have not been fulfilled… Under the terms of my contract, the Secretary of the Army or his or her designee, may order me to active duty as an enlisted soldier, if I am qualified, for a period of not more than four (4) years if I fail to complete the ROTC program.

    So, no ROTC contract = no real obligation. No contract = no DD214. No contract = no oath. No contract = not subject to the Uniform Code of Military Justice. No contract = no chance of Involuntary Active Duty callup. No contract = zero risk of actually going to fight wars in the Army unless you decide you want to sign a contract later on.

    Colin Goddard puts his experience on par with his peers who enlisted right out of high school and served tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, or his fellow cadets who completed the program and are serving out their contracts right now. How can he say he was in the military if he never enlisted, never commissioned, has no proof of service, was never subject to military justice, and had no military service obligation?

    1. How can he say he was in the military if he never enlisted, never commissioned, has no proof of service, was never subject to military justice, and had no military service obligation?

      Simple. He is a lying, hypocritical coward that wants to justify his actions.

      I don’t blame him for hiding. I blame him and call him a coward because he wants us to be as defenseless as he was.

  4. I did a year and a half of Navy ROTC in college, and would never dream of using that to claim I served.

    Yes, ROTC does add quite a few commitments and requirements on top of your average college student, but it’s nowhere near what someone who’s active duty has to do. And there’s no way anyone should mistake it for actual service.

    1. Same here. I did 2 years of Army ROTC in college but I damn sure didn’t serve in the military by any stretch.

  5. Like Russell, I was non-completer in NROTC, and I’m a similar way about it. Claiming it as service to actual vets will get you laughed at, at minimum.
    I will point out that if he did have a contract, but wanted out, the Military is quite willing to let you pay them back. They really don’t like having an unwilling and possibly unsuitable soldier/Marine/sailor/airman and the Terms of Repayment are very good for what becomes essentially a college loan (very low interest and similarly low monthly payments).

    1. I guess my perspective is colored by the fact that I was in college during the height of the Iraq war when the military wanted lots of new accessions. I knew folks in ROTC and the feeling was that it was hard to get out of the obligation, at least for the Army guys. AF would release folks, no questions asked, after the first freshman year but then clamped down thereafter. I don’t know anyone personally who was involuntarily activated but it was a possibility, and folks subject to that possibility were reminded of it (in writing!). Again, one school, one period in time, just one perspective.

      I don’t know what NROTC was doing.

      There is a possibility that Colin was contracted and then was allowed to back out after negotiating a payment plan. Even so, his claim is a bit far fetched. He still has no DD214 and thus no actual service.

      It torques me as I know people serving. When I was in college, one of my friends who was an enlisted reservist to pay for school was called up to go to Iraq in the middle of his studes. I also knew a lot of vets going to school on the GI Bill. So when someone tries to exaggerate their military service to claim false expertise (“I shot an M16 once at summer camp when I was a cadet, so I’m an expert!”) that bothers me. I had classmates and friends who were no kidding being shot at for a year in the desert, not playing Army as a first year cadet.

  6. I have a friend who did ROTC, and backed out after realizing it wasn’t for her. As I recall, the Army was pretty good about negotiating a payment plan. They really don’t want people who aren’t committed to them.

  7. FYI: There’s actually a Junior ROTC (JROTC) program at a lot of High Schools in the country. But I don’t think you get forced into the Military when one Graduates from High School. At least not since the Draft ended in the early ’70s.

    Oh, and since i got into it with some Hippie Professor in College, I’ve actually taken to carrying a copy of my DD214 with me in my EDC gear. It’s come in handy with dealing with Knuckleheads.

    Also, isn’t there a case up before SCOTUS about the Law that was passed a few years ago to punish those who Claimed to be in the Military, but never served?

    1. Yeah, but the Stolen Valor Act only applies to falsely claiming medals or decorations.
      The case is really interesting, because while it looks like they’ll uphold it, they’re having a hard time trying to ring-fence the exception. You sure don’t want to give the government a blank check to punish any speech it considers a “lie”…

      1. This is why I hope it fails. Let society police itself, not the government. The last thing we need is a federal Department of Truth.

    2. There’s actually a Junior ROTC (JROTC) program at a lot of High Schools in the country. But I don’t think you get forced into the Military when one Graduates from High School. At least not since the Draft ended in the early ’70s.

      No, it’s without further commitment even back in the days of the draft. My father was born right when the Great Depression became “Great” and he’s told me that most of the men in his high school were in it if for no other reason than that the program provided clothing. I did two years in the late ’70s, obviously after the draft, and while the experience was invaluable (who else teaches you how to teach?), plus I earned a real Expert marksmanship badge, I wouldn’t dream of counting it or its Senior version as real service (I couldn’t do the latter due to eyesight).

      My year’s top cadet got into West Point and of course what he did in JROTC made a difference, but again, all voluntary. Which actually made being in a leadership position a challenge, the other cadets weren’t under any sort of military discipline so we had to convince them to do things.

  8. The simple fact is that this isn’t an issue for most people. They either don’t understand the distinction or they simply don’t care for whatever reason. I doubt you’ll see any retraction by Goddard. Of course, it shouldn’t be a surprise that the anti’s think they have the moral high ground and that they are, therefore, justified to use any means necessary to achieve their goal.

    I did notice that one of the commenters on the linked site (Chris) said that VT’s ROTC program was more stringent than most. My response to that is the service academies are more rigorous than VT ROTC, and even they’re not considered active duty time (except under a rare exception), nor should they be.

    1. Re: VT’s program being more stringent than most: To clarify, VT is a Senior Military College, essentially one step immediately below the service academies, and the same level as The Citadel, VMI, etc. Unlike most ROTC programs, cadets at VT (and other SMC’s) are in a military environment and under military discipline 24/7. Still, it probably is not as rigorous as the service academies.

      But VT cadets, including Colin Goddard before he dropped out of the program, are not active duty. I doubt he was ever under contract.

      Bottom line: He’s full of it.

    2. Federal Service Academies are Active Duty. I’ve got a DD214 to prove that. And I am eligible for veteran benefits that correspond to my time and activities, except for the GI Bill. As you receive an education at the Academy itself.

      Per Wikipedia

      There are five U.S. Service academies:

      The United States Military Academy (USMA) in West Point, New York, founded in 1802.
      The United States Naval Academy (USNA) in Annapolis, Maryland, founded in 1845.
      The United States Coast Guard Academy (USCGA) in New London, Connecticut, founded in 1876.
      The United States Air Force Academy (USAFA) in Colorado Springs, Colorado, founded in 1954.
      The United States Merchant Marine Academy (USMMA) in Kings Point, New York, founded in 1943.

      These are the only five Academies whose students are on active duty in the Armed Forces of the United States from the day they enter the Academy, with the rank of officer cadet or midshipman, and subject to the Uniform Code of Military Justice. In the case of the Merchant Marine Academy, midshipmen are commissioned into the Navy Reserve and the Strategic Sealift Navy Officer Program.

      1. Note, time doesn’t count toward retirement. But things like VA medical, burial, etc. My understanding is that it does count as you are considered Active Duty and subject to UCMJ

      2. True, but Colin did not attend any of the military academies. He attended ROTC. And while VA Tech’s Corps of Cadets is a bit more “hard core” than some ROTC programs, it is still ROTC and a non-contract cadet is a non-contract cadet.

      3. Your Wikipedia claim would carry more weight if there was actually a reference cited. There’s not (at least on the Wiki). That’s not your fault, though.

        I do understand cadets are subject to UCMJ. I can’t say whether or not academy time is on a DD214 since I’ve never seen one, and I don’t have one (yet). I will say that I don’t know a single academy grad that counts his academy time when asked how long he has been on active duty. Furthermore, I don’t know if it’s still the case, but 20-ish years ago, you could walk away up until the start of your 2nd class (junior) year with no commitment whatsoever (unlike active duty).

  9. Well I have done 20 years of service between active duty, reserve, and guard obligations. I have a stack of DD214’s for federal active service and numerous deployments.

    I was also in the NROTC back many years ago. The ROTC doesn’t count and shouldn’t. This type of lying, obfuscating, and general hypocrisy, is one reason I loath most of the politicians currently on office. Most of them I would not even let sit at my dinner table.

    My brethren and I have served our nation were it counts. Any politician that rambles on about his ‘public service’ when all they have been doing is collecting a fat pay check, stealing baby’s lollypops, and sitting around jawing all day, is not some one I trust.

    Wes E. Tower

  10. A DD214 is issued for a minimum of 90 days consecutive Federal service. Millions of National Guard personnel would not qualify for a DD214. Their service is still military service and they qualify for military retirement pension and medical/PX/commisary priviledges after 20 years in.

    A DD214 is one proof of military service, not the only proof.

    ROTC or time in a service academy does not count for any time-in-service credit.

    1. Just thought I’d cite a link that confirms your statement:

      Q.2: I’ve always been told my Academy time doesn’t count toward my retirement. You’re telling me differently?

      A: No. You’ve been told correctly. Academy time does not add to your years of service and, thereby, increase your retirement pay. But, the date you entered the Academy determines (in most cases) WHICH retirement system you receive.


  11. Charming, he’s a poser, and a coward that would love to force his cowardice on the rest of us! Just when I thought he couldn’t be any more disgusting…

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