ROTC cadets choose military path upon graduation

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Air Force ROTC cadets Ashley Deleon, left, and Katie Grebel work out and and practice real combat training at the track/field. Photo by Danika Powers.

Air Force ROTC cadets Ashley Deleon, left, and Katie Grebel work out and and practice real combat training at the track/field. Photo by Danika Powers.

Upon graduation each year, senior cadets in the Army ROTC and Air Force ROTC programs at TCU commission as, or become, officers in the United States military. It is an exciting time as the cadets begin their post college careers with the Armed Forces.

According to Maj. Eddie Smith, the recruiting officer for TCU Army ROTC, cadets choose between active duty, Army Reserves and the Army National Guard for their profession. However, they are also chosen for their career based on their rank in the “Order of Merit” List. The “Order of Merit” List places every cadet across the nation on a list in relation to other cadets based on academic and leadership abilities. 

While some cadets choose to go into the reserves or guard, active duty remains the most sought after. Of the 5,300 estimated cadets that commission each year, about 900 will not receive their preference of active duty, which translates to about two or three cadets at TCU each year, Maj. Smith explained. The recent cutbacks in the Department of Defense and the downsizing of the Army have also added to the competition.

“Within the choice to go active duty, cadets rank their job preferences from 1-20. Infantry officer and Aviation officer slots are the most competitive and often fall in at no. 1 and no. 2 each year. The Army then fills accordingly,” TCU ROTC Cadet Tom Strickler said. 

Between the 25 senior Army ROTC cadets at TCU this year, 10 will go active duty. Pleased to be going active duty, Cadet Strickler said he will become an Ordinance officer upon graduation.
“I have always wanted to be a soldier,” he told TCU360, “I have always wanted to be 100 percent soldier. The benefits are awesome.”
Cadet Strickler plans to follow through to EOD, Explosive Ordinance Disposal, down the road in his military career.

For those that make the choice to go into the Army National Guard or Army Reserves, their reasons vary. Some cadets choose these professions because they want to stay in the area or maintain a full-time civilian job. 

For senior Lexi McAuliffe, she chose Army Reserves over the Texas National Guard based off Medical Service officer vacancies.
“As of May, tentative plans are to take charge of the patient administration section as part of the operational side of my unit,” Cadet McAuliffe said. “Cadets who chose to serve in the reserve/national guard have the choice to begin drilling with their unit prior to commissioning as a cadet.”

“Unlike Army ROTC, all Air Force ROTC cadets are guaranteed active duty,” Lt. Col. Jara Lang, professor of aerospace studies, said. The Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve do not work through AFROTC, but rather do their own recruiting.  According to Lang, the only way to go reserves or guard through ROTC is to apply through a special program that TCU hosted for the past two years, but will discontinue next year.

Each year about 2,000 AFROTC cadets commission as active duty officers. Of the four commissioning TCU AFROTC cadets, Strategic Communication major Danielle Devoto, made the decision to apply for Air National Guard through that program. She now stands as a Pilot Candidate. 

The Air Force, much like the Army, has also been feeling the effects of the downsizing and cutbacks within the DoD. “While active duty slots are still guaranteed, the waiving of issues that would prevent a cadet from commissioning will no longer occur,” Capt. Kenneth Edwards of the TCU AFROTC cadre said. 

For AFROTC cadets, the most important point of their cadet career is training at Maxwell Air Force Base between sophomore and junior year, Edwards said. During the summer training in Alabama, cadets are pushed to the limit both physically and mentally. 

According to Edwards, they participate in daily challenges such as learning hand-to-hand fighting techniques, sharpening their skills in a 14-day mock deployment and patrolling defensive fighting positions in their area of the base. But most importantly, cadets learn how to work as a unit.

Edwards added that it is during the training at Maxwell AFB, as well as their final two years of ROTC, that cadets are evaluated and are scored on an Order of Merit system. Grade Point Averages and Physical Fitness Test scores are what give cadets a competitive edge on selecting what they want to do within the Air Force.

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