The ROTC and Comatose
Shortly after CSU was founded, President Charles Ingersoll – a Civil War veteran – organized a group of students into the school’s first drill team. In 1916, with the advent of World War I, Congress passed the National Defense Act, creating the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps, more commonly known as ROTC. Participation in ROTC was an important part of student life from that point on, with CSU first operating an Army ROTC program and later becoming one of the first in the country to have an Air ROTC unit (which later became Air Force ROTC). Male CSU freshmen were required to participate in ROTC up until 1962, when President Bill Morgan responded to a call led by The Collegian to make the program voluntary. Women joined the cadet corps in 1969, and in 1987, the Air Force ROTC Detachment at the University of Northern Colorado merged with the one at CSU to form a single cadet corps.
Alumni of CSU’s ROTC programs include Four-Star General Lewis “Uncle Lew” Walt (Class of ’36), who went on to become assistant commandant of the Marine Corps and chief of U.S. Naval Forces in the Vietnam War. Today, about 400 cadets participate in the two CSU ROTC programs, which honor America before every event at Canvas Stadium and Moby Arena during our national anthem.
ROTC cadets also participate in the best tradition in college sports – The Boot Run. The Boot Run is a 38 mile journey through Highway 287 where the cadets run the game ball for each Border War game between CSU and Wyoming to the Colorado-Wyoming border. CSU’s cadets run a longer distance as well as gain nearly 2,000 feet in elevation on years where Wyoming hosts the game.
The CSU Army ROTC also mans “Comatose,” the cannon fired at CSU football games and the University’s longest-running tradition – certainly the loudest. “Comatose,” a 1918 French 75mm field gun managed by ROTC cadets, has been a booming presence at football games since 1920. Every attendee of a CSU football game has been privy to the startling sound of Comatose being fired before kickoff, after touchdowns and field goals, and at the end of every game.