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Fountain of Youth: Underwood's ROTC Course

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At first glance, and even after you get to know him a little bit, Dr. David Underwood leaves the impression that he is a mild-mannered college administrator. 
 
His gentle nature is perhaps the defining characteristic of a man who has become a trusted colleague for Arkansas Tech University faculty and staff and a valuable advisor for Tech students during his decade of service to the institution. 

But there is another side to the associate vice president for academic affairs at Arkansas Tech. A side that has always wanted to rappel off a four-story building and ride a zip line 80 feet above a lake.
 
Underwood had those experiences and learned about the benefits of the U.S. Army Reserve Officers Training Corps for college students during the Army ROTC Leadership Development and Assessment Course at Joint Base Lewis-McChord near Tacoma, Wash., July 17-20.
 
“You don’t realize how high 80 feet is until you are up there and the only way you can hold yourself up is to use your hands,” said Underwood of his thoughts as he stood on the zip line tower. “At the end, you drop from about 10 feet high and you are traveling about 50 miles per hour when you hit the water. That was extremely interesting for me because it is designed to help you overcome a fear of heights and a fear of water, and I’ve got both. I absolutely loved it.”
 
A total of 135 representatives from universities and colleges around the United States were invited to witness and participate in the course, which is designed to train and identify future military leaders. ROTC students typically attend the Leadership Development and Assessment Course between their junior and senior years of college.
 
“One of the big points of emphasis was how educators and ROTC can work together,” said Underwood. “College students who are involved in ROTC take on a large role in terms of responsibility and the severity of what they are training for. It’s good for us at Arkansas Tech to have the influence of ROTC on our campus because those students have a great deal of discipline.”
 
Underwood went into the experience with first-hand knowledge of the serious nature of what he would see. He joined the U.S. Army National Guard in 1969 and served on active duty in Germany from 1972-74.
 
In addition to his rappelling and zip line experiences at the Leadership Development and Assessment Course, Underwood also had the opportunity to fire the latest models of some of the same weapons he worked with almost four decades ago.

“I’m 62 years old,” said Underwood. “I went through basic training a long time ago, and I was young and agile back then. This was like re-living a fantasy, in a lot of ways. It was invigorating. I told my wife (Dr. Susan Underwood) before I went that it would either make me realize how old I am or it would make me feel a little bit younger. Thank goodness, it made me feel a little bit younger --- although I did realize that I probably shouldn’t be rappelling off buildings anymore.”

Click here to learn more about the Army ROTC program at Arkansas Tech.

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