A detachment of the Army Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) was established in 1947 on what was then the Santa Barbara College of the University of California. The college and ROTC, located on the Riviera above the city of Santa Barbara, moved to its present location in 1953 into what was previously a Marine Corps Air Station. The college reached "general campus" status in 1958 and was renamed the University of California at Santa Barbara (UCSB). The university grew in size during the 1960's from approximately 2,400 to over 12,000 students.
The first three graduates of the ROTC program at UCSB were commissioned as Second Lieutenants in 1949. Since that time, 1,335 men and women have been commissioned into the U.S. Army, U.S. Army Reserve, or U.S. Army National Guard through the program. Officer production peaked in 1968 and 109 Lieutenants were commissioned. The highest rank achieved by an alumni of the Surfrider Battalion is Lieutenant General (LTG Eric Wendt, class of 1986). A notable alumni of the Surfrider Battalion is Dr. Robert Ballard, a famed oceanographer who discovered the Titanic in 1985.
Participation in ROTC became voluntary in 1962, which led to a temporary decline in the number of students participating in the program. By 1975, however, recovery was well under way and the number of Officers commissioned has since risen steadily. 1974 also saw the opening of ROTC to women. Female Cadets at UCSB were among the first in the Fourth ROTC Region to hold the position of Cadet Battalion Commander and to be recipients of the prestigious George C. Marshall Award.
From 1947 to the present, the Army Reserve Officer Training Corps at the University of California at Santa Barbara has provided the nation with highly motivated Lieutenants trained to lead and command. In 1991, UCSB was selected as the best ROTC program in our region, which includes California, Arizona, Nevada, New Mexico, and western Texas. The legacy of the proud Surfrider Battalion continues to prosper at UCSB.