The roots of the ROTC program reach back more than a century to 1862, when Congress enacted the Morrill Act and required land-grant colleges to offer courses in military training. A military department was activated at the University of Washington in the 1870's, with instruction offered by civilian professors and community leaders. By the 1890's, instructors came from the ranks of the retired military, active duty officers, and the state militia.
Beginning in 1892, all male students at UW were required to participate in military training for their first two years. Following the Spanish-American War, Military Science classes were discontinued at the University from 1902 to 1909. The specific name, "Reserve Officers' Training Corps", did not come into being until 1916, when the National Defense Act created ROTC as an officer training and procurement program.
The University of Washington's Daily, 24 Oct 1916, reported the filing of a formal application with the War Department for the installation of an ROTC unit at UW. However, World War I prevented the full implementation of the National Defense Act, and ROTC did not become an identifiable program at UW until the end of the war. In 1921, an Air Service ROTC unit was established at the University of Washington--the sixth of seven original Air ROTC units organized in the United States.
The UW Air ROTC program was discontinued in 1928 because of Congressional budget limitations, and all other Air ROTC units were discontinued by 1935. In 1946, an Army Air Force program was introduced at the University as a branch of Army ROTC. A separate Air Force ROTC unit was activated on campus in 1948, with the advent of the Department of the Air Force.
As a result of Defense Department Policy changes, the University of Washington chose to make the ROTC program completely voluntary in 1961. Shortly after, Congress passed the 1964 ROTC Vitalization Act authorizing scholarships, a two-year program, and Air Force Junior ROTC. In may 1970, the USAF authorized ROTC to allow women to enroll in the program.
Since that time, AFROTC has been characterized by such changes as increases in scholarships and cadet subsistence allowances, establishment of permanent Field Training bases, the Professional Development Program, and the Private Pilot's License Screening Program along with allowing cadets to attend other schools.