AFROTC cadet flies in family’s footsteps, looks to become military physician

Jack Carey follows in his father's footsteps in Baylor AFROTC. Photo courtesy if Jack Carey

By Jenna Fitzgerald | Copy Editor

For Midlothian sophomore Jack Carey, involvement with Baylor Air Force ROTC soars in the family.

Carey’s family has numerous ties to the military. His grandfather and great uncle were in the Air Force, acting as strong influences on his father, who went through Baylor AFROTC before joining the Air Force as a pilot. In addition, Carey also has an older brother serving in the Army Guard and another older brother who went through Auburn AFROTC and is looking to become a pilot.

“I got to grow up with a technical perspective of how the Air Force functions, but it was more like the culture of working that helped influence me to push my energy toward it,” Carey said. “It’s a solid career. It’s pretty well-directed toward doing its mission, which is security and helping people. And it fosters a pretty cool, invested, positive culture.”

According to Captain Kenneth Herlacher — operations flight commander and intelligence officer — coming from a military family provides students with a different perspective and equips them with a degree of readiness for what lies ahead.

“Cadet Carey has moved around a lot, and he understands what it is to be a military child,” Herlacher said. “That provides them a unique perspective, and they come in with a little bit more resilience than someone who may not have had that opportunity to move around as frequently. Especially with Cadet Carey, he moved around a lot more often due to his dad’s rank.”

While Carey said he learned a lot from the character and values modeled by his family in general and his father in particular, he said his path is unique because of his desire to pursue the medical field.

“Granted, I am literally doing Air Force ROTC at the school he went to to do something with military, but as far as career paths and how we’re going to approach life, I’ll be taking as much positive influence as I can from his path while also trying to pave my own,” Carey said.

According to the Baylor AFROTC FAQ page, “apart from a few very specialized fields, you can enter almost any career field with any degree you may be pursuing here at Baylor University.” As a biochemistry major, Carey is developing knowledge in his academic courses while also obtaining leadership skills and confidence through AFROTC; together, these two endeavors help him in his journey to become a well-rounded physician.

“There’s few more personal ways to make a positive impact on someone’s life than using your studies and expertise to either heal or remedy something that’s afflicting them,” Carey said. “There’s nothing more personal than someone’s health, and being able to apply studies and work into making people’s livelihoods much, much better is another great motivator to just get to work.”

Carey said he is particularly interested in the prospect of working in military hospitals because the entire objective is to provide health care for military families and retirees, without limitations of insurance and finances. He said this environment allows physicians to focus wholly on the health of their patients.

“Everyone in the operation has military experience, but it functions just like any other hospital,” Carey said. “I think what really drew me to, if I’m going to practice medicine, doing it in the Air Force, is the financial side of, ‘Your entire goal is to get this person better, and your paycheck is not dependent on people getting sick.’”

Herlacher said he has seen Carey grow in several ways, such as becoming more detail-oriented and learning how to rally a team to accomplish a goal.

“He stood out to me since day one,” Herlacher said. “Our sophomore class is a very tight-knit group. He’s not one to sit in the back. He’s definitely a voice among his peers, and he’s a leader among his peers. He has a family legacy here at Baylor, but he doesn’t let that get in the way or let that be his own legacy.”

Herlacher said Baylor AFROTC involves physical training, participation in the cadet wing, professional development training, leadership laboratory and aerospace studies classes, which gradually lay a foundation of personal, team-based and organizational values. He said the program is marked by its emphasis on shared experience.

“The greatest benefit, I would say, is a sense of belonging, a sense of, ‘What do you want to do?’” Herlacher said. “You learn the leadership, the followership, but also a big sense of camaraderie. Everybody around you is doing the same exact thing. They’re going through the same trials and tribulations that you’re going through. But not only that — the people that are training you have also been through those same exact things, so there is a shared bond.”

Since students are not committed until they sign an Air Force contract — which typically happens after returning from field training during their junior year — Carey and Herlacher both said AFROTC is a pressure-free opportunity for students to see if Air Force service is a good fit for them.

“If people are looking for a challenge, if they want to challenge themselves and see how they can get outside their own comfort zone, this is a perfect opportunity,” Herlacher said. “This is a great way for you to see how you can lead, see how you can follow, give back to your community, give back to your country. You can see if the military environment is for you, if it’s not for you — and that is perfectly fine and acceptable.”