Military programs team up to prepare students for active duty
The Air Force ROTC and Show-Me Gold programs at Southeast have increased their endeavors to work together on projects and events. In doing so, students in those programs are prepared for the joint effort between all five of the military branches in the field.
Captain Jessica Boettcher from AFROTC said collaboration is key to avoid students thinking one branch is better than the other.
“It's one team, one fight,” Boettcher said. “We might have different objectives, but it starts now, building that teamwork together and understanding each other's goals.”
Lieutenant Crystal Cecil, the Officer in Charge of the Show-Me Gold program, agreed with Boettcher, saying it is a wake-up call to some of the soldiers to hear what is going on with other sides of the military.
“Sometimes it helps a lot to hear, ‘You think this is hard and this is tough? Well, guess what, over on this side, it’s still hard,’ so it doesn’t matter (what branch you’re in). We’re still going through the same struggles and trying to serve our country,” Cecil said.
Boettcher said the collaboration began about a year and a half ago when Captain Richard Branson was the Show-Me Gold Officer in Charge and Boettcher started traveling from the Southern Illinois University-Carbondale detachment to Southeast more often. Once Cecil took over in January, Boettcher said she and Cecil connected instantly.
“She’s got the same mindset that I do, someone that is so passionate about educating these soldiers,” Cecil said.
Collaborative activities are both educational and competitive. The programs met in the Student Recreation Center on Wednesday, April 10 for volleyball matches, basketball games and a relay race. Air Force took the trophy with a victory in the relay race after losing at basketball and winning volleyball. Then on April 18, AFROTC students met with Cecil in groups to learn the basics of the Army.
Boettcher and Cecil agree their collaboration will also help change the community’s perspective on the military. Cecil said young people sometimes will come into college with an idea about the military that could be untrue. One example she said was the stereotype of joining the Army means someone will be handed a gun and sent overseas immediately.
“The best way to approach this is not an Army version or Air Force version, but a collaboration of talking about what a serviceman, an airman, a soldier and a Marine are,” Cecil said.
One idea they proposed for Fall 2019 is an alternative UI100 course about military versus societal perceptions. This would be geared toward non-traditional military veterans who aren’t coming to Southeast right out of high school. This way, those veterans can work with the AFROTC and Show-Me Gold to change the stereotypes.
Both Boettcher and Cecil want to increase their collaboration in upcoming semesters. Cecil said she wants to take the Show-Me Gold candidates to SIU a couple of times next year to get them out of their comfort zone at Southeast.
“Students learning from students, especially if Boettcher has more senior cadets than what my candidates are, I think is the best way,” Cecil said.