ROTC celebrates 40 years on Southeast's campus
From a young age, Cadet David Brown had an interest in serving his country. He comes from a family with a strong military background* with veterans dating back to the American Revolution. His father was a Green Beret of the United States Army.
Brown is the drill and ceremonies commander in the Air Force Reserve Officer Training Corps at Southeast Missouri State University.
"I wanted to fly, so I decided I would pursue a career as a pilot through the Air Force," Brown said. "You need to be an officer to do so, and ROTC was the route I decided to go with."
Junior Cole Trover and others involved in the ROTC program at Southeast have similar stories.
Vance Pawielski is an alumnus of Southeast and now acts as the communications coordinator for the ROTC. He is the liaison between the program and the university itself. He committed 20 years of service to the Air Force and has worked in his current position for close to 18 years.
"To be a cadet and a future officer takes discipline, commitment, and the ability to lead. Cole Trover is a flight commander ... [and] is responsible for 15 freshman cadets. He ensures that they are trained, get to SIU-Carbondale on time, coordinates extra-curricular activities, and much more," Pawielski said.
On Saturday, Oct. 20, former cadets will arrive on campus to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the program.
The commemoration will be held in the University Center Redhawks Room at 10:30 a.m. following the homecoming parade. Alumni of the program will gather together for a meet and greet with peers and have the opportunity to speak with student cadets.
Cadet Erin Martin is a junior at Southeast and joined the ROTC this fall.
"To be a part of ROTC, it's a privilege," Martin said. "You are learning about your branch, learning about how to be a leader, how to serve, but you are not actually in active duty."
ROTC prepares individuals for field work, gives them experience and a background about what it's like to be a commissioned officer, while still offering participants the chance to earn an undergraduate degree.
However, the program does not come without its own workload. Those involved are minimally required to attend leadership lab, complete physical training and take an Air Force lecture class.
Leadership labs are held on Mondays. Students drive to Southern Illinois University-Carbondale for a two-hour lab session, which is set up to mirror the same formation of an Air Force base.
Hour-long physical training sessions begin at 6 a.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays and at 4 p.m. on Wednesdays in the Student Recreation Center-North. It is mandatory that participants of the program go to two of the three times available each week.
Depending on their grade level, students are enrolled in a one-hour or three-hour lecture class. Two hundred-level classes teach the history of the Air Force, while 100-level classes are about learning all subjects including uniform, rank and moral codes.
There are height and weight restrictions to join ROTC along with a standard GPA expectation. As freshmen and sophomores, members will commit at least five hours a week to ROTC activities. As juniors and seniors, the hours will round up to around seven.
"That's the bare minimal, however, there are always other extracurricular activities like color guard and drill practice," Brown said. "I lead the drill practice and set up all the color guards for football games and any other event requests."
The U.S. Air Force has been a separate service for 65 years, but in the 40 years at Southeast, the Air Force ROTC program has grown from a detachment to an operating location to a cross-town agreement. When Pawielski came to Southeast, the program was just beginning, and, over time, he has had the chance of seeing it evolve.
"We have been placing so many high-speed officers into the active duty Air Force that I would say we have been very successful -- in part to the quality of education our university provides, and second the students themselves that come to our campus, making our campus the university of first choice," Pawielski said.