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College of Arts & Sciences
Air Force ROTC Detachment 775

Detachment History

The University of South Carolina has had a venerable military tradition since its beginning.  Students formed the first cadet corps at this institution (then known as South Carolina College) to honor revolutionary war hero, the Marquis de Lafayette during his visit to Columbia in 1825.  This corps continued to exist in some capacity until 1856.  Carolina military service continued during the Civil War, when the entire student body resigned to serve in the Confederate Army.  During the First World War, the University of South Carolina provided 339 officers for military service, and the War Department established the school's first Army Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) program from 1917-1918.  Eleven USC students lost their lives during the war.  In 1940 the Navy established a ROTC unit on campus.  That same year, William Glover Farrow, a USC student, left school to train as an Army Air Corps pilot.  Soon after his commissioning, Farrow was the first man to volunteer for the Doolittle Raid, and was executed after his capture by the Japanese.  In March of 1949, USC president Admiral Norman Smith began correspondence with the Air Force to establish an Air Force reserve Officer Training Corps (AFROTC) unit on campus.  The unit was officially established on July 1, 1949, and the first student interest meeting was held on September 12, 1949.  The new Air Force cadets received their first uniforms in March 1950.  The unit grew rapidly and by December of 1950, there were over 300 cadets.  By 1952, 700 students had joined the program, which boasted its own 50 piece marching band and classrooms in historic Barnwell College, later moving to Flinn Hall.  Columbia declared April 10, 1953 "Air Force ROTC Day," which included a parade of cadets down Main Street.  

In 1955, William G. Farrow's aunt presented the unit with a book signed by General James Doolittle and all surviving Tokyo Raiders (now housed in USC's Rare Books and Special Collections Library), and the unit's Arnold Air Society squadron was named in Farrow's honor.  While the 1960s were a tumultuous time for many university ROTC programs, the decade passed relatively quietly at the University of South Carolina, where 80% of the student body supported military service.  Nevertheless, enrollment in the program did decrease significantly through the decade.  The decade also saw the first African-American cadets enter the program.  In April 1972, Vietnam War protestors interrupted an AFROTC awards ceremony by pouring blood on two men meant to represent Vietnamese prisoners of war.  The unit received its first female cadets in 1970 and appointed its first female cadet wing commander in 1977.  Throughout the 1970s, USC's Air Force ROTC program increased enrollment by focusing on community service products in Columbia.  This strategy was the major factor in its winning the "Air Force Oustanding Unit Award" in 1975.  For this honor, Detachment 775 received its own flag, combining the seal of the Air Force with the university's own historic seal.  In 1983, Detachment 775 hosted Astronaut Charles M. Duke, Jr. as a speaker, and in 1987, the unit raised money to dedicate a plaque in honor of the fallen Challenger astronauts, now in the garden behind the South Caroliniana Library.  A roof fire in August 1995 damaged Flinn Hall and the detachment moved to the USC Coliseum.  In 2006, all ROTC units at the University of South Carolina were relocated to the former Naval Reserve Center on the corner of Pickens and Wheat streets, where they still reside today.  In 2000, 2008 and 2015 Detachment 775 won the "Best Small Unit"AFROTC Region Award and in 2015, won "Best Small Unit" for AFROTC nation-wide.

Today, AFROTC Detachment 775 continues its proud tradition of leadership training and community service at the University Of South Carolina.