By Cameron Bocanegra | Reporter
A few days a week, nearly a hundred Air Force ROTC cadets walk around campus in their ironed camouflage uniform and shined shoes, still tired from the early morning physical training. When they are not wearing their uniforms, the cadets are normal college students who worry about tests and graduating on time just like the rest.
“It’s as intense as you make it,” said San Antonio senior Richard Coley, the second lieutenant of their wing. “If you come in really physically fit with a good academic standing and a balanced life, then sure you’ll do just fine. If not, it will be a little hard at times.”
Every week, the cadets attend anywhere from two to four physical training sessions in the morning and a two-hour leadership lab with the entire flight on Wednesday. The beginning of the Air Force program seems like it only affects your life as a few extra classes, but as you progress further in the program, the classes get longer and more intense.
“If you don’t leave ROTC better than you were, then you probably didn’t put forth the effort necessary,” Coley said. “There is some butt kicking involved. Sometimes you have to wake up after staying up all night studying for an 8 a.m. test, but first you have to go to 6 a.m. physical training. You get tired, but it helps you grow.”
Their college experience requires more discipline and planning to work around their school load and Air Force responsibilities. The experience provides skills in leadership, people management, difficult situations — things that help with managing any life ahead. Extra summer programs and classes in their chosen Air Force track are unrequired, but are available to the eager cadet.
“Some days it doesn’t affect my life at all,” said Houston junior Samantha Ess. “When it isn’t between Tuesday and Thursday, I have my hair down and a tad more makeup on. I’m me. When I’m in a flight meeting, its a different story.”
A common assumption is that everyone in the Air Force ROTC is a pilot. However, engineers, nurses, space officers, battle managers and more supporting roles are commissioned out of the program. Each cadet focuses on their own track and are cycled through leadership positions in the Air Force detachment specific to their needed experience.
“You get what you put into it, and if someone actually wants this, they’ll put a lot of time into it,” Ess said. “I’ve really loved ROTC and I would do it all over again. It does take a ton of time and there are people who just do what is required like go to class, lab, training, graduation and then just go into commission, but its just not the same experience that is available here.”