FeaturesAir Force ROTC: not your average group on campus

Air Force ROTC: not your average group on campus

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At 6 o’clock on a Monday morning, the average college student is asleep. Even if one is awake, they most likely have not left their dorm, their apartment or even their bed at that time in the morning. 

If a cadet within Detachment 432 is in that position, they would be counted as absent for physical training.

PT occurs for cadets within Air Force ROTC Detachment 432 on Mondays and Wednesdays in the Payne Center at 6 a.m. If any cadet is still tired, it must not show when cadets are at attention or during the hour-long session of exercises.

However, there is more to AFROTC than just physical activity. There is class. 

Students within AFROTC partake in a four-year program that prepares students to be an officer within the United States Air Force after graduation. 

To get there, one must take and pass 24 hours of Aerospace Studies classes and labs. 

Cadet Julianna Vaughn is a junior Alpha Flight Commander within the detachment. The criminal justice major had a passion for military service before coming to college and was drawn to the Air Force due to her familial background in that branch. 

Cadet Julianna Vaughn, Alpha Flight Commander, stands in the cadet lounge in McLemore Hall.

“I originally wanted to join just because I didn’t really know what I wanted to do,” Vaughn said. “And the military, it was an honorable job. It is something that my grandfather had told me about.” 

The 432nd Air Force Reserve Officers’ Training Corps Detachment was established on USM’s campus in 1971. It roots itself on three core values: integrity first, service before self and excellence in all that it does. 

Then Cadet Andre Taylor graduated from USM and Detachment 432 in 2007. Major Taylor has returned to his alma mater as a recruitment officer and an assistant professor of Aerospace Studies within the program. 

Aside from teaching classes, Major Taylor was tasked with increasing awareness of the now smaller detachment. 

“I’m trying to build a program back up and get us more involved with different organizations out there,” Taylor said. 

Major Andre Taylor Assistant Professor of Aerospace Studies, Recruiting Officer for Air Force ROTC Detachment 432

Though the detachment has decreased in size, its impact on the cadets has not diminished. 

Cadet Christian Rapetti is part of the Operations Group this semester, which runs the laboratory portion of the AFROTC curriculum. The computer science major is in the third year of the program. 

Before joining, Rapetti could not do a sit-up and struggled with his stutter. He explained to The Printz that through the individual attention, training and class time he has received since joining two years ago, his fitness level and public speaking ability have improved greatly. 

“I go as far as to say that’s probably the best decision I’ve made because it helped me figure out a lot about myself and helped me figure out a lot about what makes me happy too,” Rapetti said. 

Cadet Christian Rapetti, Operations Group member, setting a timer during a physical training session

The AFROTC also inspires its cadets to serve the community as well. For instance, Detachment 432 started a clothing drive last week.

 This, along with the routine service projects it does every semester helps to showcase it sense of service, which is reminiscent of the Air Force’s mission overall.

“We try to become involved with our community so our community can know us, and we can know them. And that also goes into putting your best self forward and striving to do excellence,” Vaughn said.

But as with anything else, ROTC is not for everyone, which is why one can participate in AFROTC for the first two years without any commitment to the program or the military. 

For many, the experience in and of itself would have still been worth it. 

“Even if I didn’t make it past my second year, and I dropped the program, I still would have had so much to take away from it that I could apply to almost any other area of my life,” Rapetti said. 

Leadership within the detachment appears to mirror this sentiment as well. 

“Service back to your country doesn’t mean that you need to join the military. There are plenty of ways to give back,” Taylor said.  For more information on the AFROTC or the Department of Aerospace Studies, one can go to the second floor of Southern Hall or email afrotc@groups.usm.edu.

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