The Army ROTC Battalion on the URI campus originated from the military training unit established in 1894 by Captain William W. Wotherspoon, later Chief of Staff of the United States Army. Under the provisions of the Morrill Act of 1862, more familiarly known as the Land Grant Act, State Colleges set up military training units to prepare the college students for leadership in the event of a national emergency. In 1920, the unit was re-designated as the Reserve Officers Training Corps in compliance with the National Defense Act of 1920.
Starting with a unit consisting of fourteen men in 1894, the unit grew to approximately 1500 cadets during the time ROTC was mandatory for freshman and sophomore students. The unit was organized into a brigade of three battalions consisting of three companies each and one provisional battalion consisting of the junior training company, Kingston Rangers, the ROTC Band and the Drill Team.
An Infantry Branch material unit was instituted with military instruction in 1894. Subsequently, Quartermaster and Engineer branch units were incorporated into the program in 1943 and 1951 respectively. Presently, all branch training has been terminated and replaced by General Military Science instruction. Full college credit is received for ROTC courses by all students enrolled.
Since 1919, over 1600 cadets have been awarded commissions in the Active and Reserve Components of the United States Army. Approximately 25,000 students have taken basic ROTC courses at the University of Rhode Island during the same period. Beginning with the academic year 1965-1966, Military Science has been on a voluntary basis.