The Air Force ROTC program has been revived at Saint Leo after seven years of inactivity. ROTC, or the Reserve Officer’s Training Corps, is a professional development program which trains college students to become United States Armed Forces officers. While the Army ROTC program has consistently enjoyed a high rate of commissioning new officers at SLU, the Air Force ROTC has been largely dormant until this year.
AFROTC was first established at Saint Leo in 1983 through a partnership with the University of South Florida. After years without training any future officers, the program made a resurgence with a Fall 2015 class of four Cadets. Ted Weiser, better known as “Gunny,” of the Veteran Student Services office at Saint Leo credits this upswing of Cadets to renewed interest in the program by fresh ROTC leadership at USF.
Dr. James Whitworth, Associate Dean of the School of Education and Social Service, was highly involved in bringing the program back to Saint Leo. According to him, the hardest part of rejuvenating the program was renewing and revising old contracts with USF. The logistic difficulties of training Cadets off-campus also posed a challenge.
Air Force Cadets undergo a demanding training process. They commute twice a week to USF for physical training, classroom instruction, and leadership labs. Cadets seeking more rigorous physical training can opt to participate in the Battle Airman Challenge, which consists of intensive physical training five days a week at 6:00 in the morning.
One such participant is sophomore Peyton Farrier of Foxtrot Flight, Training Squadron 2. Farrier had considered enlisting in the Air Force, but decided to go through the ROTC program and earn her commission to enhance her career. Farrier, a criminal justice major, is unsure of what job she would like in the Air Force, but may choose from a variety of branches. AFROTC commissions officers into a diverse array of jobs in fields such as combat rescue, cyberspace operations, space and missile operations, and of course, aviation.
Corina Rimiller of Echo Flight, Training Squadron 2 is a psychology major in her junior year. She is similarly unsure of what she wants to do in the Air Force, she is certain of why she joined. Rimiller signed up in honor of her father, who had always aspired to be an Airman.
In return for the hours of sweating and studying done for the program, which Cadet Rimiller likens to a part-time job, AFROTC offers a secure job after graduation and financial aid for school. Cadets that prove they have leadership potential can sign a contract with the Air Force to receive benefits such as full tuition coverage, housing and food coverage, and stipends for books and monthly living expenses.
Though the program is open to all majors, preference is given to STEM majors and those majoring in strategically critical languages. Both undergraduate and graduate students may enroll, but those doing so past their freshman year will need to undertake a condensed form of study to make up their first year. Both Farrier and Rimiller are Aerospace Science 250 Cadets, a designation for students that are dual-enrolled in both first- and second-year AFROTC courses.
Students interested in enrolling should contact Ted Weiser at 352-588-8234.