The NROTC program was established in 1926 to educate and train qualified young men and women for service as commissioned officers in the United States Navy or Marine Corps. From its humble beginnings, the program saw its first battalions at the University of California at Berkley, Georgia Institute of Technology, Northwestern University, University of Washington, Harvard, and Yale. The first graduating class in June of 1930 saw 126 new naval officers, at least three of which went on to attain flag rank. The Marine Corps joined the NROTC program in 1932.

During the civil rights movement in 1968, Prairie View A&M became the first historically black college to establish an NROTC unit. In 1972, the Secretary of the Navy ordered the integration of women into the program. Although they could only choose from four of the participating universities, it opened the door for the complete integration of the NROTC program; today women may now participate in any NROTC affiliated college or university.

The mission of the NROTC program today as shared by the University of Florida unit and many units across the country is to develop young men and women morally, mentally, and physically, and to instill in them the highest ideals of honor, courage, and commitment.