The ROTC program has been on the University of Central Arkansas campus for 50 years.

Since its start in 1968, the program has graduated around 500 second lieutenants into the U.S. Army.

When Lt. Col .James Welch, professor of military science, told Sen. Jason Rapert earlier this year that the program was celebrating its 50th anniversary, Rapert wanted to pay homage the group.

The ROTC program was recognized on the floor of the Arkansas Senate with Rapert issuing a citation commemorating the years.

Welch said the acknowledgement was wonderful and it was nice to see the many cadets who have passed through in the years honored for their hard work.

Welch has been a part of the program since he graduated in 1998 — he went on active duty after and came back last summer to run it.

He said being a cadet and going through the training prepared him for his career and that he owes his success to what he learned while at UCA.

Being able to return and contribute to training these students to go out and serve their country means a lot, he said.

He said he couldn’t thank Rapert enough for initiating this commemoration.

“We were very excited about the whole process,” Welch said.

Welch said they were able to take five cadets, who were on the color guard team, to the ceremony in Little Rock. He said the first person they saw when walking in the building was Gov. Asa Hutchinson and that Rapert took the time to talk to each of them individually.

“That was a memorable experience that they’re not going to forget anytime soon,” Welch said.

Welch said they have other plans to honor the program’s 50 years during the course of 2018 but if anyone has questions about ROTC or the $600,000 in scholarship money they give out to students, call 501-852-2384, email ucarotc@uca.edu or find them on Facebook.