College is often viewed a time of preparation. It is a time to make mistakes, learn necessary skills and prepare for life in the workforce. For Army and Air Force ROTC students, it means studying a major, but also getting ready to embark on life in the service.
The Army program at CSU began in 1916, and by 1947, AFROTC Detachment 90 formed. Detachment 90 is made up of 127 cadets from CSU, University of Northern Colorado and Front Range Community College, with the vast majority of students representing green and gold.
“You’re learning to be a student, but at the same time you are learning to be something much bigger than yourself,” said cadet and senior psychology student Tyler Moore.
The cadets are under the instruction of eight active duty military personal as well as upperclassmen leadership. Juniors and seniors run the wing, the name for a group of cadets. Along with their own studies, they provide direction to freshman and sophomores, orchestrate events and serve in the community.
“One of the biggest things here is empowering people, giving those down the chain opportunities to lead and make mistakes and learn from those mistakes,” said Michael Kelvin, cadet leader of the detachment.
As part of the detachment program, freshman and sophomore students complete two credits of AFROTC-related coursework a semester. For upperclassmen, that increases to four credits per semester. The summer between sophomore and junior year, cadets complete extensive field training. Often referred to as “mock deployment,” the students spend four weeks split between Maxwell Air Force Base in Alabama and Camp Shelby in Mississippi.
Leadership training is highly valued. Cadets in the program participate in leadership courses all four years in the program. Additionally, they have the opportunity to compete with the unit’s renown drill team, which placed second out of nearly 90 teams last February in Redondo Beach, California.
“We strive for self improvement as well as continuous improvement on your leadership, always looking back to see how you’re performing so you can be a better leader,” Kelvin said.
At the core of AFROTC is a dedication to service both local and abroad.
“I think everyone in ROTC has a keen awareness to serve,” Moore said. “We all want to serve our country, and being able to serve here is the icing on the cake.”
Detachment 90 recently sent over 1,700 cards to servicemen and women abroad as a part of Operation Gratitude. Groups of cadets make weekly trips to senior citizen homes and visit with the residents. They also work with students at Beattie Elementary School as part of the Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) Program. Members of Detachment 90 can also be found doing push ups in the end zone during football games and participating in various service opportunities such as Cans Around the Oval and CSU Serves.
Beyond classwork and service, detachment 90 provides a supportive network of students who uphold the AFROTC values of “integrity first, service before self and excellence in all (they) do.”
“You have that support system,” said senior Cadet Colin Biery. “You have people to back you up.”
Freshman Megan Venegas said she appreciates the structure and the community sharing a similar mindset, along with the opportunities and awareness it brings.
“I’m a political science major, and I really want to go into politics and run for office,” Venegas said. “I believe it’s important that if you want to lead your country you first serve it. If you want to be in a position of authority where you’re telling people what to do with their lives and how to serve, you know what you’re risking.”
Along with knowledge and camaraderie, AFROTC enables students to reach for their full potential.
“This program puts you in a lot of situations that can be stressful, but when you come out the other side you leave with with a ton of capabilities you never knew you had,” said Christian Chavez, a cadet and senior mechanical engineering student. “It really does push you.”
Collegian Reporter Nicole Towne can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.