Pershing Rifles is a military-oriented, national honor society, with fraternal origins.  Pershing Rifles was founded in 1894 as a drill unit at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. It is the oldest continuously operating U.S. college organization dedicated to military drill. Originally named Varsity Rifles, members renamed the organization in honor of their mentor and patron, 2nd Lieutenant (later General of the Armies of the United States) John J. Pershing, upon his departure from the university in 1895.

Pershing Rifles became a national organization in 1928 expanding to include several other universities, with companies consisting of drill teams as well as tactical units. Together, these units form what is known as the National Society of Pershing Rifles.

Ultimately, the purpose of the National Society of Pershing Rifles is, “to develop, to the highest degree possible, outstanding traits of leadership, military science, military bearing, and discipline within the framework of a military oriented, honorary fraternity.”

The mission of the National Society of Pershing Rifles is to:

  • To aid in the development of successful officers in the Army, Navy, and Air Force.
  • To foster camaraderie and esprit de corps among all three Reserve Officers’ Training Corps programs.
  • To further the purpose, traditions, and concepts of the United States Army, Navy, and Air Force.
  • To give civilians an opportunity to be part of a military organization without formal commitment to the military.


Development of successful officers in the Army, Navy, and Air Force.  Through its organizational structure, the Society affords its members an excellent opportunity for command and staff experience.  In its administration, the Society furthers a working knowledge of military administration which is of great value to the member as a cadet or midshipman and later as an officer in his/her particular branch of service.

Fostering of camaraderie and esprit de corps among all three Reserve Officers’ Training Corps programs.  As one of the most important of its missions, the ROTC relationship merits special attention to the Society.  The National Society of Pershing Rifles is the only co-curricular organization available to all ROTC cadets.  The Pershing Rifles, through its meetings and other activities, develops valuable esprit de corps.  Such awareness among the Pershing Rifles members, coupled with the improved officer-cadet relationship fostered by the Society, leads to a stronger and more efficient corps of cadets.

Furthering the purpose, traditions, and concepts of the United States Army, Navy, and Air Force.  The first step in the achievement of this objective is the creation of a closer and more efficient relationship within the ROTC programs on a campus.  The Society exhibits interest in and understanding of the traditions and concepts of the three services by its continuing program of tri-service recognition.

Importance of Pershing Rifles to civilians.  Through its organizational structure, the Society affords its members an excellent extra-curricular leadership-training environment  This is important for civilian professionals as well as the military.  Through the relationship with the ROTC cadets and midshipmen, a closer relationship is formed between these civilians and the military.

Pershing Riflemen elect their own leadership at each echelon of command. At the university level, active Pershing Riflemen serve as Drill Team Commanders, Non-Commissioned Officers-in-Charge, and Company Commanders. Regiments, which normally encompass a number of states, are supervised by a Regimental Commander and a staff organized similarly to the staff of an active duty Army battalion or brigade headquarters. The National Commander and his staff, organized in such as fashion as to mimic an active duty division headquarters, oversee a tri-service organization and represents the Pershing Rifles to Army, Navy, and Air Force ROTC Commands. The structure of the National Society of Pershing Rifles virtually ensures that members are faced with the challenges of leadership earlier than their fellow classmates, which allows them to excel in their chosen branch of ROTC. Those serving on the regional or national staff elements also gain experience as field-grade or general officers.

Interest in the Pershing Rifles, and the success of its leadership development program, would not be possible without the organization’s external focus: exhibition rifle drill. Excellence in close-order drill, whether armed or unarmed, is a function of discipline and dedication; these traits are put to work on a regular basis by Pershing Rifles units. A typical unit performs as a color guard, exhibition drill team, honor guard, funeral detail, or any other ceremonial unit requested. These services are usually at the request of the local ROTC detachment or school, but are sometimes requested by alumni, local governments, or active duty military units. Through all of these activities, in addition to the skills gained by the performers, positive publicity is also received by the unit’s host school, host ROTC detachment, and ultimately the military in general.

Finally, the national headquarters supports two major events each year: its Commander’s Call in the fall, and the National Convention and Drill Competition in the spring. The fall event is for the leadership of the organization to discuss the plans for the New Year; conversely, the spring event is attended by the Society’s entire membership, and centers around competition and the implementation of any legislative changes.

Active membership is restricted to college students enrolled at an institution that hosts a Pershing Rifles company. Members may be either male or female and while a majority have affiliation with the military (especially ROTC), it is not a prerequisite for membership.