ROTC Commissioning Links Father and Daughter

TAMPA, Fla. (April 29, 2009) – One of the University of South Florida’s first ROTC cadets will have the honor of commissioning his daughter at a ceremony Friday, May 1, at 1 p.m.  Retired Col. Paul Celotto was one of seven cadets in the inaugural program that began in 1975. His daughter Katrina D. Celotto, is in the Quartermaster Corps.  Celotto was an All-American swimmer for the USF swim team and his name now graces a plaque in USF’s athletics department.  In 1977, he earned a bachelor of science in criminal justice and was commissioned into the Regular Army as a second lieutenant in the infantry branch and later become a Special Forces Officer.  His daughter majored in communications at USF and will serve her first duty assignment with the 101st Airborne Division as a Quartermaster Officer.


USF’s first professor of military science, retired Col. Stuart A. Herrington will serve as guest speaker at the event.  For his achievements as an intelligence officer in Vietnam, Germany, Russia, Panama, and the Middle East, Col. Herrington has received numerous decorations, including the Distinguished Service Medal, five Legions of Merit, two Bronze Stars, the Air Medal, and two awards of the Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry.  For counterespionage successes and for actions during Operation Desert Storm, he was twice awarded the CIA’s Agency Seal Medallion. 


Though retired, in 2002-2003, Herrington was dispatched by the Department of the Army to visit Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and Baghdad, Iraq, to evaluate interrogation operations and counterinsurgency programs.  His reports warned the Army of serious deficiencies in Guantanamo and significant problems of misconduct/mismanagement in Abu Ghraib and other facilities in Iraq.  His findings and recommendations are now regarded by national defense experts as “warnings not heeded.”  In Iraq, several senior officers were ultimately relieved and disciplined as a result of failings pointed out by Herrington’s report.


He has published three successful non-fiction books and numerous op-ed pieces (in the Wall Street  Journal, San Diego Union-Tribune, Miami Herald, Pittsburgh  Post-Gazette and various magazines and journals).  Herrington’s books include Silence Was A Weapon; The Vietnam War in the Villages; (later re-released as Stalking the Vietcong: Inside Operation  Phoenix); Peace with Honor? An American Reports on Vietnam: 1973-1975; and Traitors Among Us: Inside the Spy-Catcher’s World.


The Suncoast Battalion, as it is now known, began in July 1975 through an agreement with the senior ROTC program at the University of Tampa.  It grew from seven cadets to over 200 within two months.  A Senior ROTC “Bulls” Battalion was established at USF Tampa in 1979.  The “Bulls” Battalion grew and eventually became the Suncoast Battalion with the addition of cross-enrollment agreements between USF, Clearwater Christian College, Eckerd College, Hillsborough Community College, Saint Leo University, Saint Petersburg College and South University.  In 2007 the U.S. Army Cadet Command (USACC) established USF as one of two “Super Host” Senior ROTC programs in Florida.  USF St. Petersburg approved ROTC classes that began in 2007.  This year, the Suncoast Battalion placed in the top 3% of the 273 senior Army ROTC programs in the nation and is one of only eight schools to win the MacArthur Foundation’s Award for Excellence.   


USF’s ROTC program now has Army, Navy/Marine and Air Force components, one of only 38 programs across the country that has all three.  In 2004, USF established the only Joint Military Leadership Center (JMLC) in the nation. The JMLC’s mission is to provide ROTC cadets/midshipmen/officer candidates with unique core competencies and skills in leadership development, global understanding, and military/national defense strategies.  The JMLC and the ROTC programs are consolidated in the new state-of-the-art, 53,000 square foot, C.W. Bill Young building. 


“Thanks to the hard work and dedication of Colonel Herrington, Colonel Celotto and his six other classmates from the commissioning class of 1977, all three ROTC programs now stand on solid foundations.  The best in the nation,” said Lt. Col. James Botters, the current Army ROTC professor of military science.  “Our motto is, ‘We Can, We Will,’ and it sums up the dedication, professionalism and esprit de corps of past, present and future faculty and cadets of the Suncoast Battalion.”


The University of South Florida is one of the nation's top 63 public research universities and one of 39 community-engaged, four-year public universities as designated by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. USF was awarded more than $360 million in research contracts and grants in FY 2007/2008. The university offers 219 degree programs at the undergraduate, graduate, specialist and doctoral levels, including the doctor of medicine. The university has a $1.8 billion annual budget, an annual economic impact of $3.2 billion, and serves more than 46,000 students on institutions/campuses in Tampa, St. Petersburg, Sarasota-Manatee and Lakeland. USF is a member of the Big East Athletic Conference.