On January 20th 1890, John E. Haggart of Fargo introduced Senate Bill 140 entitled “A bill for an act to provide for the establishment, Erection and operation of the North Dakota Agricultural College and Agricultural Experiment Station at Fargo.” This bill which was passed on March 8, 1890 contained the following passage under the heading Course of Instruction, “The course of instruction shall embrace the English language and literature, military tactics,…” and on October 15th 1890 the North Dakota Agricultural College was founded.
In 1892, Military instruction was first given (as were all instructions), in College Hall, (now Old Main). Professor Edward S. Keene, of the University of Illinois who had recently been employed as the Professor of Engineering and Physics was the first Military Instructor. The Military Department of 1892 consisted of five members including Professor Keene. Professor Keene organized a company and served as its first Captain. In 1893 the Agricultural College Board determined that in accordance with the Land-Grant Act, Military instruction at North Dakota Agricultural College would be compulsory. It would consist of 2 hours if instruction per week in drill and all male students would be required to attend in uniform. In 1895 Professor Kaufman became Captain, Professors Hall and Hayden the Lieutenants, and two students acted as Sergeants. Equipment was obtained from the State National Guard.
In February 1897 Lieutenant C. G. French of the 15th U.S. Infantry was assigned by the War Department as the Commandant for the military department at the North Dakota Agricultural College. LT. French was the first active duty military officer to be assigned at NDSU.
In 1901 Captain James Ulio (later Major), assumed duties as the Commandant. When CPT Ulio took command of the Military department he established for the first time, a set curriculum for the department. Major James Ulio was the first Commandant of Cadets to be given the title Professor of Military Science. Major James Ulio resigned in 1911, leaving behind him a firm foundation upon which the Bison Battalion of today has been built.
In the early 1900’s the War Department began inspection the Military departments at all colleges and Universities. The “Distinguished Institution” rating was given annually to the top ten Land Grant colleges in the nation. By 1922, the ROTC department at NDAC had received several “excellent” ratings and in 1923 received the “Distinguished Institution” rating. Each school quarter Full Dress Inspections were conducted by the Battalion Commander. The unit that was determined to present the best image would be awarded a Gold Star. As a part of the Battalion, the Band was also inspected. The cadet Band under the supervision of the determined Professor “Doc” Putnam consistently won the Gold Star. Because of the results of these inspections, the North Dakota Agricultural College Cadet Band, was renamed the “Gold Star Band.”
In 1917 the NDAC was authorized a Reserve Officer Training Corps, but it was not implemented until 1920 because of the World War. With the United States’ entrance into World War I, in 1917, most active duty officers serving in ROTC units were recalled back to their combat units and retired officers took their place.
In 1919 the newly established ROTC unit at North Dakota Agricultural College was organized as an Infantry Battalion. The first two years of the program (the basic course) were mandatory for all able bodied males. Graduates of the advanced course were appointed second lieutenants, Organized Reserve Corps. With the passage of the NDA, summer camps were also integrated into the military training offered at the college. Summer Camps for cadets at NDSU have been conducted at Camp Funston, Kansas (1919), Camp Custer, Michigan (1920), Fort Snelling, Minnesota (1921-1939), Fort McCoy, Wisconsin (1940’s and early 1950’s), Fort Riley, Kansas, and Fort Lewis, Washington, from 1954 to the present.
In the years immediately following the war, military training on campus was subjected to much criticism, especially by members of the Student Farmers’ Union. The ROTC unit was discontinued in July 1921 by the War Department, but the discontinuation was reconsidered in September of the same year, due to the efforts of Acting President Keene (who previously served as the head of the Military Department in 1893), and CPT (later promoted to MAJ) F. B. Carrithers. From 1921 until 1925, the R.O.T.C. program at NDAC was under the command of the Seventh Army Corps. MAJ Carrithers was succeeded by MAJ William F. Harrell, in 1922.
In 1922, Sergeant Major Russell W. Schnitzius, USA, Infantry, was the first Non-Commissioned Officer to be assigned on a permanent basis to the NDAC ROTC Department.
During the period 1928 to 1936 the NDAC ROTC Rifle Team was very active in Intercollegiate Rifle Matches winning the National Intercollegiate Gallery Rifle Matches three times and retired the trophy. Their greatest accomplishment was in 1929, when the ROTC Rifle Team form North Dakota Agricultural College, defeated Ohio State University, to win the William Randolph Herst, National Championship trophy. The trophy has been retired and is on display in the NDSU Army ROTC Cadet lounge.
In 1931 the construction of the “Field House” was completed and occupied by the Physical Education Department and the Department of Military Science. It has remained the Military Science Departments’ location since then.
During the period September 1942 to January 1946 ROTC was suspended and the Army utilized the campus at NDSU for OCS, ASTP, and the Army Administration School. On September 21, 1942, an Officer Candidate School (OCS) was established at the College with 335 candidates. By April, 1943, approximately 1,300 young men, after completing the course, had been commissioned second lieutenants. When the school was discontinued in June, 1943, 2,139 had graduated from it. At the last graduation of OCS at the College, Major General James A. Ulio, was given an honorary degree of Doctor of Science in Military Science. General Ulio, a native of Fargo, was the son of MAJ Ulio, the ROTC departments first Professor of Military Science.
In December 1960 the NDAC officially changed its name to North Dakota State University.
The current unit crest worn by all members of the Army R.O.T.C. at NDSU was approved by the Institute of Heraldry, US Army, on 01 March 1974. The green and gold (yellow) on the crest symbolize the university colors. The open book alludes to knowledge; together with the quill it represents academic development; with the sword, with the blade up, is indicative of leadership. The anvil and Florence flask indicate industry and science. The floral pattern is symbolic of wheat, representing Agriculture, the primary industry of North Dakota.
The current distinctive institutional shoulder sleeve insignia at NDSU was approved by the Institute of Heraldry, US Army, on 11 May 1993. The forest green and yellow on the patch symbolize the university colors. The three stars represent the three colleges that comprise the tri-college community in the local Fargo/Moorhead area. The Bison is the NDSU mascot and is representative of the Bison Battalion. The straight line (plain) upon which the Bison stands represents the prairie of the Midwestern Great Plains.
The Bison Battalion is a historic and proud tradition here at NDSU. We continually and consistently produce top performing Lieutenants for the United States Army. Some have performed historic and notable actions, some even made the ultimate sacrifice; to read about the members in our Hall of Valor Click here