The Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) began with the National Defense Act of 1916. The University
Pittsburgh established a Department of Military Science of Tactics in March of 1918 and was one of the first
universities to offer the ROTC program to students. The department initially only offered infantry tactics
instruction intended mainly to train able-bodied men in military drill. Shortly after, the Carnegie
Institute of Technology (now Carnegie Mellon University) also established an Army ROTC program in 1919.
Initially, Army ROTC programs were focused on branch-specific training. The University of Pittsburgh focused primarily on training Coastal Artillery and Motor Transport units and did so through World War I and into World War II. In 1943 the program expanded and began commissioning officers into Antiaircraft Artillery, the Army Corps of Engineers and the Medical and Quartermaster fields of the Army. Interestingly enough, during World War II, the Pittsburgh area produced more steel for weapons, ships, and planes than all the allied countries combined, earning the city the title “The Arsenal of Democracy.”
In 1956, a general Military Science program of instruction was established at the University of Pittsburgh, ending the branch-specific training. This transition was instituted so that ROTC programs could focus on developing scholar athlete leaders first. To this day, Army ROTC continues to follow a general Military Science curriculum and offers commissions in all Army branches.
On 1 July 1975, the Department of the Army fused the ROTC programs at Carnegie Mellon University and the University of Pittsburgh to form the Pittsburgh Senior ROTC Instruction Group. Between 1922 and 1975 these two programs commissioned more than 5,000 officers into the Army.
Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, the Panther Battalion Army ROTC program expanded to partner with other area universities within the Pittsburgh area. These universities included Duquesne University, Washington & Jefferson University, California University of Pennsylvania, Robert Morris University, Franciscan University of Steubenville and many others.
In 2008, the University of Pittsburgh Army ROTC program changed its name from the “Panther Battalion” to the “Three Rivers Battalion” in order better reflect the diverse and widespread nature of the battalion that now encompassed 20 different partner and affiliate universities. Additionally, this seemed fitting based on Pittsburgh’s location at the junction where the Allegheny and Monongahela Rivers come together to form the Ohio River, and the proximity of all of the schools to one of the Three Rivers.
Presently, the Three Rivers Battalion consists of 200+ cadets and 15 cadre at the University of Pittsburgh and its partner universities.