Military training at the University of Wyoming was instituted in 1891, one year after Wyoming was admitted to the Union as a state. The University Board of Trustees established a "School of Military Science and Tactics" and required Military training of all able-bodied male students.
The first commanding officer of the Military Science Department, First Lieutenant D.L. Howel of the Seventh Infantry, organized the 55 Cadets into a battalion of two companies. For the first year there were no rifles, and training consisted of marching and foot drills. In 1892, however two 3-inch muzzle loading fieldpieces were recieved, along with Springfield rifles and training became realistic.
The third Professor of Military Science, Captain Charles A. Varnum (1895-1898), had been a Second Lieutenant of the Seventh Cavalry in 1876, and was in charge of Crow and Arickaree Indian scouts under the command of Major Reno and General Custer at the Battle of Little Big Horn. For his actions during the battle, Captain Varnum was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor.
After the Spanish-American War, the Military Department at the University expanded and became an active campus organization. In 1902 coeds organized two all-girl drill companies and participated in the regular drills with military students. Wyoming Cadets first saw action during World War I. Twenty students volunteered, three of whom obtained commissions while six served as noncommissioned officers.
In 1916, the National Defense Act created the Reserve Officers training Corps (ROTC). The University of Wyoming applied at once for a unit. Which was granted on October 31, 1916. Wyoming thus became one of the first seven institutions of the nation to install an ROTC unit.
One Professor of Military Science, First Lieutenant Beverly C. Daly, performed the job (or was involved) for 25 years, from 1911 to 1936. During this time he was promoted to the rank of Major. In 1936, he became Dean of Men, in which capacity he served until 1945.
The period between World War I and World War II brought rapid strides in training, administration and facilities. In 1925, the ROTC occupied the expanded office space in the Half Acre Gymnasium. Officer type uniforms were authorized for advanced students, and an Army staff supplemented the University personnel. A company of Scabbard and Blade, a national military honor society, was organized in 1929.
In 1940 a summer Pilot Training Program was created. In 1941 the College of Engineering was authorized to institute defense training courses and in 1942 the Army/Navy preliminary ground school and flight training program was initiated. Approval was brought about in 1943 for the U.S. Cadet Nurse Training Program and in 1949 Air Force ROTC separated from Army ROTC.
In 1965, Army ROTC authorized initiation of the Army Aviation Program. The ROTC cadet corps continued to expand until 1965-66 school year. At that time, the University Board of Trustees approved an elective ROTC program requiring male participation. Although enrollment initially declined, the program experienced an encouraging increase in student participation, both from male and female students. Indicative of the increased female interest in the program during 1976-77 school year, the cadet corps was commanded by its first female cadet battalion commander.
The Bronze Boot competition originated in 1968 when CPT Dan Romero and MAJ Vic Fernandez of Colorado State University decided the schools should have a traveling trophy. CPT Romero sent home one of his Vietnam combat boots to be bronzed and presented at each University of Wyoming vs. Colorado State University football game. The boot was mounted on a walnut base and the scores of each game are engraved on the side. The tradition continues to this day as highlighted on television by ESPN.
In 1984, Donald L. Veal became President of University of Wyoming. President Veal had been in the University ROTC program when he was in college. Spring 1991 brought the initiation of department credit for the Nurse Summer Training Program. In 1997, a Cowboy Battalion alumni, General Peter J. Schoomaker, was named Commander in Chief, Special Operations Command. Then in 2003, General Schoomaker was named Chief of Staff, United States Army. This is the highest ranking officer in the army. He held this position until his retirement in 2007.
Another alumni, Major General Dennis K. Jackson, was named Chief of Ordnance in 1998. October 2, 1999 marked the first performance of the Battalion's Mounted Color Guard at the Wyoming-Idaho home football game. The following year, the mounted color guard led the university through the city of Laramie during the annual Homecoming Parade. In December, the Battalion was ranked within the top 20% of all ROTC units in the nation (see Ranking).
Currently, our Cadet Corps is organized into a Cadet Battalion (Cowboy Battalion). The headquarters offer MS IV Cadets leadership experience in either command positions, regular staff positions, or special staff position in areas such as Public Information (S-5), Intramural Coordination, Ranger Challenge coach, and Color Guard coordinator.
Indicative of the quality of the program, in July 2001, the United States Army named the Cowboy Battalion the "Most Outstanding Unit in the Country for 2001" and awarded them the Order of the Founders and Patriots of America Award. They were selected from more than 270 ROTC units nationwide. Further in 2007, UW Army ROTC produced the #6 rated 2LT out of more than 4100 2LT's commissioned that year. Then, in 2008, the #20 rated 2LT nationwide also commissioned from the Cowboy Battalion.
We also prosper in extracurricular activities. In October 2007 the Cowboy Battalion 10-Miler Team placed #2 of 58 ROTC teams nationwide in the annual Army 10-Miler Race in Washington D.C. In March 2008 the Cowboy Battalion finished #1 overall in the heavy ROTC division at the Bataan Memorial Death March (26.2 mile marathon) at White Sands Missile Base, New Mexico.
The Army ROTC program continues to be the premier leadership training program in the world, providing valuable training for the future leaders in the Army and our civilian communities. The Military Science Department, one of the oldest on campus, is proud of its long and distinguished record in serving the needs of our state and nation.
Today the Cowboy Battalion continues to prosper and contribute both to the university and the community through various cadet functions. ROTC Cadre teach marksmanship, military history, and physical fitness classes to all UW students and the battalion is heavily involved in community service.