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April 15, 2009 - Image 9

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 2009-04-15

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IM ,111 ZI S .~ ih-nD v-W dnsaA rl1,2 0


Teral Tmn
The realRT

lying faster than the speed of
sound, replying "YES SIR!"
to every command, training
earlier in the mornings than the
average student wakes up for class.
Is this what you think of when you
hear R-O-T-C? Well, you're right...
sort of. You have definitely seen
us, the ones who walk around in
our "blues" every Thursday with
shiny black shoes and meticulously
pressed uniforms. You definitely
have some ideas about the kind of
people who call themselves cadets
do and stand for. Let me tell you a
little bit about why we do the things
we do and who we really are - and
then you can decide if your notions
are correct. .
No, we are not the Army. Yes,
we are students. No, we do not
fly for the Air Force... yet (and
that's only some of us). We are not
ultra-conservative, card-carrying
members of the National Rifle
Association. We did not join the
Air Force because we like or enjoy
war. We live in the dorms and off
campus, just like you-not in North
Hall, the Reserve Officer Training
Corps (ROTC) building between
the Natural History Museum and
the Dental School. We belong to
various campus organizations
including fraternities, sororities
and varsity athletics. We DO see
you staring at us - but it's OK,
we're used to it.
The purpose of Air Force ROTC
is to utilize the knowledge and
technical abilities of college stu-
dents and turn those students into
leaders who will serve to protect
the interests of the United States of
America. Have you ever seen the
"Bourne" trilogy? In the movie,
Matt Damon's character undergoes
intense training as an assassin to
become "better" in every way. That
is not at all what we do. We have
engineers, political science majors,
nursing students and movement
science majors. We are represented
in each of the University's under-
graduate programs. Everyone has a
personal and diverse level of exper-
tise that he or she brings to the
Air Force, and through ROTC, an
essential foundation is instilled and
practiced. These students will all
move into what we call the "active
duty" Air Force. We will be officers
first and our particular specialty
second, so we need to go through
a common training program - not

Jason Bourne training. Some of our
"training" is surprisingly very sim-
ilar to leadership and management
courses offered at the Ross School
of Business. We learn how to prob-
lem solve in high-intensity envi-
ronments so as cadets, we can keep
our cool and make sound decisions
when under a great deal of pres-
sure. Then we take it a step further
and complete in-depth, specialized
training such as small team tactics,
cyber warfare simulations and cul-
tural immersion programs in places
like Brazil and South Africa.
All of these complimentary
experiences and the professional
development we get from being
part of Air Force ROTC really is
awesome. In fact, it is the best edu-
cation I've had. But the best part
of Air Force ROTC is the connec-
tion that is developed between all
of us. Nothing brings people closer
than enduring a common hardship.
Working with driven, goal-orient-
ed, funny-as-hell individuals cre-
ates a bond that will only continue
to grow when we join the Air Force
upon graduation.
Yeah, we wake up early and work
out, do all this extracurricular
training and wear uniforms once or
twice a week. But we are students
just like everyone else here. We will
graduate with a degree and com-
mission into the Air Force, just as
you will graduate and begin work-
ing as professionials in your field.
What separates us is the amount
of responsibility we will have from
the get-go and the enormity of
our pursuits. About 10 percent of
us will fly a $130 million aircraft.
Note, also, that not everyone in the
Air Force flies. Some of us will head
up multi-million dollar acquisition
projects, while others will lead
the world's finest warriors into an
austere environment to secure ter-
ritory for extracting civilians from
a war zone. When we decide it is
time to leave the military, whether
that's after four years or 24 years,
we will have acquired a long list
of accomplishments that would be
unattainable for those who didn't
wake up at the crack of dawn for
four years.
That's what Air Force ROTC is.
What are you doing next year?
-Erich Mehnert is the
Recruiting Squadron Commander
of the AFROTC on campus

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