The next issue of RIT’s Athenaeum newsletter, which comes out Feb. 17, features a cover story dedicated to RIT’s Reserve Officers Training Program, more commonly known as ROTC. I wrote this story and really enjoyed the time I spent getting to know the students and staff who have made the decision to earn a degree and serve our country in the military. These young men and women manage full course loads while attending ROTC classes and several leadership and physical training classes each week. These students have formed a family—at times spending as much as 40 hours a week together.
RIT offers ROTC programs for Air Force and Army, and the friendly competition between the two is both entertaining and inspiring. Let’s be honest—each branch of the service likes to say it’s better than the others, but deep down there is a mutual respect for each other and a common bond that can’t be denied.
I spent a lot of time in the Air Force detachment in Ross Hall. Here, the Air Force cadets gather and relax and consider this space a home away from home. It is here where they learn Air Force protocol, our country’s chain of command and where they will be stationed upon graduation. I met an Army cadet in RIT’s Tiger Battalion who was weeks away from his assignment down south and seemed virtually unfazed to be heading into the unknown. He told me that he felt prepared and confident and he knows that serving his country is his calling.
This certainty just amazes me. And, I have a confession to make. When I was a freshman at SUNY Geneseo—a while back—I enrolled in RIT’s Air Force ROTC program. Yup, for one academic year, I made the 25-minute drive from Geneseo to Henrietta several times a week to attend PT sessions at 6:30 a.m., ROTC leadership classes and even the military ball at the end of the year. Honestly, I met a lot of fantastic people that year and I was in the greatest shape of my life. But, I can also say that I knew—almost immediately—a life in the military wasn’t for me.
While doing research for my Athenaeum article, I met Cadet Christopher Steenson, who will graduate in May and will head to Laughlin Air Force Base in Del Rio, Texas, to begin fight training. He wants to be an Air Force pilot more than anything in the world. I’m still not sure I know what I want to be when I grow up. I have such a deep appreciation for these young people who have made it through four or five years of rigorous ROTC training, and who are anxiously awaiting their lives that will be filled with service and sacrifice.
So, take a moment to read our latest cover story, watch a behind-the-scenes video, and appreciate our country’s future defenders.
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