By Ros Krasny
BOSTON (Reuters) - Harvard University will soon welcome the Reserve Officer Training Corps program back on campus, some 40 years after military recruiting ended there during the Vietnam War.
The university said it will formally welcome Naval ROTC, which trains students for possible service in the military, in a ceremony on campus between Harvard President Drew Faust and Navy Secretary Ray Mabus on Friday.
The change of heart follows December's repeal of the 1993 "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" law, which disqualified gays and lesbians from serving openly in the U.S. military.
"Our renewed relationship affirms the vital role that the members of our Armed Forces play in serving our nation and securing our freedoms, while also affirming inclusion and opportunity as powerful American ideals," Faust said.
Under the agreement, Harvard will resume full and formal recognition of Naval ROTC on the effective date of the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" repeal, expected to come this summer.
Faust recently hailed the repeal as an historic step.
"It affirms American ideals of equal opportunity and underscores the importance of the right to military service as a fundamental dimension of citizenship," said Faust.
Since the Pentagon introduced the policy against openly gay service members at least 13,000 men and women have been expelled from the armed forces for violating the rules.
Harvard will appoint a director of Naval ROTC and will resume direct financial responsibility for the cost of its students' participation in the program.
The Naval ROTC will get office space and access to classrooms and athletic fields for participating students.
A number of Harvard students are currently active in ROTC programs on the nearby campus of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Faust also announced the intended formation of an ROTC implementation committee, expected to span not only issues concerning Naval ROTC but eventually other service branches.
It will be chaired by Kevin "Kit" Parker, a Harvard professor and Army major who has served three tours in Afghanistan.
(Reporting by Ros Krasny, editing by Greg McCune)