The University of South Dakota
Military instruction at USD began prior to South Dakota’s statehood by Colonel Jolley in 1881, but the Reserve Officer Training Corps was not established by Congress until 1916. USD’s first commissioned officer from ROTC became a Second Lieutenant in 1922, but several USD graduates from the years prior to 1922 went on from the campus military instruction to become officers in the various branches of the military.

The first commissioned officer from USD ROTC, 2LT Everett H. Mann

Military instruction at USD began prior to South Dakota’s statehood by Colonel Jolley in 1881, but the Reserve Officer Training Corps was not established by Congress until 1916. USD’s first commissioned officer from ROTC became a Second Lieutenant in 1922, but several USD graduates from the years prior to 1922 went on from the campus military instruction to become officers in the various branches of the military.

USD ROTC

On 22 March, 1919, at the request of the President of the University andunder the command of Major A. S. Balsam, a unit of Reserve Officers TrainingCorps (Infantry) was established at the University. Beginning in 1924 the ROTCprogram achieved the "distinguished college" rating and the Scabbardand Blade Society was founded. The Scabbard and Blade Society focuses onmilitary and academic excellence. In the summer of 1942, a military camp wasestablished. As part of the WWII war effort, under the command of COL JosephChurch, 400 recruits were sent to the University of South Dakota. The constantturnover or personnel would place up to 600 recruits at the University at anyone time. In early 1944 COL Church was replaced by MAJ Fred Sims who was aUniversity of South Dakota graduate. During the 1954-55 academic year the ROTCprogram was changed to General Military Science. In 1969, the compulsoryelement was removed from ROTC and all student participation since that time hasbeen voluntary.

The Prairie Fire Battalion

PRAIRIE FIRE was the code-name for highly classified deep reconnaissance andstrike operations conducted by well-trained, exceptionally motivated andresourceful SPECIAL FORCES operational detachments into Laos during the VIETNAMWAR. These operations were an essential part of the US Military AdvisoryCommand's intelligence and interdiction campaign against the Viet Cong andNorth Vietnamese during the late 1960's. The officers and NCOs who participatedin PRAIRIE FIRE were resourceful, dedicated, and unafraid to assume newresponsibilities and take a few chances. They were leaders!

USD ROTC Recent History

Since compulsory enrollment in ROTC was removed in the late 1960s, a strongcore group of volunteers on the USD campus have consistently stepped up to takeon the challenges of becoming a commissioned officer in the Army.  TheArmy ROTC program at the Prairie Fire Battalion has been a steady presence inVermillion and at our partnership schools.  Students from USD as well asstudents from Mount Marty College, Wayne State College, the former YanktonCollege, and most recently Colorado Technical University in Sioux Falls haveparticipated in ROTC through the Prairie Fire Battalion.  While the sizeof our program is smaller than the compulsory enrollment period, the dedicationand devotion of today’s volunteers matches the spirit of the Cadets from theearlier days.  In 2002, the Prairie Fire Battalion moved from its home fornearly 70 years at the E.O. Lawrence building also known as the “New Armory”due to a major renovation.  Currently the Battalion is located at the CookHouse on USD’s campus with Physical Training conducted at the Dakotadome andfield training events  scheduled throughout the local area at militaryposts and state parks.