MARCH AIR RESERVE BASE, CALIF. --
Team March extended its reach to the "Fighting Fifty-fifth," University of California, Los Angeles, Air Force Reserve Officer Training Corps, with a host of briefings and hands-on activities, designed to enhance awareness of a career in the U.S. Air Force, March 28.
"This is an important ongoing outreach and recruiting program," said Lt. Col. Don Traud, public affairs director, 452d Air Mobility Wing. "This tour was tailored specially for Air Force ROTC cadets because they will be future officers of the Air Force. If we are to acquire effective leaders to command our air forces, they must have an idea of what to expect. Seeing how Air Force members interact and work on an everyday basis, gives cadets a much deeper respect and understanding for what it takes to keep jets flying and stay mission focused."
The UCLA Air Force ROTC program is administered by five active duty Air Force members comprised of Lt. Col. William Heuck, Jr., detachment commander, Capt. Jared Grady, operations flight commander, Special Agent Eric Moore, recruiting flight commander, Tech. Sgt. Christopher Sankey, detachment Noncommissioned-officer-in- charge and Staff Sgt. Rafael Caballero, NCOIC of knowledge operations management. Their vision is to "provide quality education and relevant military training to prepare tomorrow's Air Force officers for the challenges of leadership."
"I deliver instruction on four basic classes at UCLA," said Grady. "The main academic class I teach for our third-year cadets is called Aerospace Studies 130B, which details the foundations of officer leadership. I also oversee the leadership laboratory class, which is run by third and fourth-year cadets. This class gives them the opportunity to lead and teach underclassmen how to march and wear the uniform, among other activities in the program. In addition, I teach a physical fitness class and civilian class for students who think they may want to pursue a career in the Air Force."
Once introductions and a brief summary of events were accomplished, the cadets and staff officials piled onto their bus, headed for the March flightline.
The tour began on the C-17 Globemaster III ramp with Maj. Gary Miller, pilot and Master Sgt. Rick Fowler, loadmaster, from the 729th Airlift Squadron. Together, they briefed the importance of teamwork and aircrew synergy - both crucial to a successful flying mission. The excitement showed on the faces and was heard in the voices of the aircrew members, as they invited the cadets into their office - the flight deck and cargo hull of the C-17.
"This is a great program," said Miller. "I remember when I went through ROTC, you really didn't know what to expect when entering the Air Force or what your future would bring. This type of engagement allows cadets to see how Air Force members work on a daily basis - it gave me a clearer perspective and helped me solidify my desire to serve."
Fowler explained how he takes his static presentations serious because he is projecting his image as an Air Force representative, which will have a lasting effect on those in attendance. "I may be the deciding factor on whether someone enters the Air Force or not," said Fowler. "We have to recruit the best of the best, so my actions have to reflect the same. These are the next line of potential aviators that will take over when I am gone."
Ashley Mendoza, first-year cadet, was undecided on which career to pursue in the Air Force; however, during the tour of the KC-135 Stratotanker, she more or less decided to become an aviator. She credits her visit to March as the force point to aid in her decision.
"Being here today gave me a new perspective on how I want to serve in the Air Force," said Mendoza. "Seeing the cargo and tanker aircraft and hearing about how important they are to the overall Air Force mission, steered me in that direction -- plus, they travel around the world and that really enticed me.
It was a good day to be a cadet, because the California Air National Guard's 144th Fighter Wing, Detachment 1, opened its restricted area gates to allow entry into an operation seen by few. The detachment stands alert at March Field and flies the F-16 Fighting Falcon to provide air defense protection for California, as well as the entire western seaboard.
"My goal is to be a fighter pilot, said Cadet Cody Johnston. "Seeing the F-16's and learning about their alert mission gave me a clear visual on the path I want - no, I will take."
The cadets' tour wound down to a session with the Explosive Ordnance Disposal unit and Security Forces Squadron. They received an in depth look at the hardware used by teams, such as remote bomb robots and bomb suits (as seen in Hollywood movies) and M-4 carbine assault rifles. After the demonstrations, cadets received words of advice from veteran Air Force members.
"You are our future leaders," said Senior Airman Andrew Reynoso, 452d Security Forces. "A lot of responsibility will be placed on your shoulders and those serving under your command will be looking to you for guidance. When you make decisions, make sure they are based on solid facts, because bad decisions can hurt worse than an enemy attack."
Serving as an officer or enlisted member attached to an ROTC unit can be a career-enriching assignment.
"I am serving two years as a flight commander in this special duty assignment," said Moore. "The opportunity to shape cadets for service in the Air Force through mentoring, teaching and advising is my way of paying forward from what I received as a cadet. This is priceless!"
For more information on a special duty assignment with an ROTC program, contact your servicing personnel office.