Air Force symposium gives ROTC cadets a new perspective


    Air Force ROTC cadets recently built upon their leadership skills while also getting a glimpse of life at a military academy.

    A group from TCU’s Air Force ROTC detachment traveled to the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colorado last week for the academy’s annual National Character and Leadership Symposium.

    Cadets and officers from across the country listened to speakers, including both active and retired military personnel. The speakers shared both personal leadership-related experiences and practical advice for cadets once they are commissioned.

    Capt. David Schulwitz, the recruiting flight commander for TCU Air Force ROTC who accompanied the group, said many speakers had inspiring stories to share.

    “There were speakers who had just gone through incredibly terrible things in their life and had found a way to push through it,” Schulwitz said. “Some speakers were retired generals and people who had just gotten to an impressive leadership level in their life, but others had just pushed through crazy hardships in their lives, so it was motivational on both sides of it.”

    Schulwitz said one of the speakers had grown up in Sudan and lived his entire childhood on the run as social issues at the time had endangered his life.

    Other notable speakers included Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force James Cody and keynote speaker Gen. Darren McDew, a commander stationed at Scott Air Force Base in Illinois.

    “I really enjoyed hearing General McDew,” said Air Force ROTC cadet Jordan Butler. “He spoke over his beginnings and how he worked his way up. He shared what he thinks leadership is; that you need to be bold and take care of people.”

    Butler, a senior at the University of Texas at Arlington, commutes to TCU for Air Force ROTC. He was one of four cadets from TCU’s detachment that attended the symposium.

    “Every day too, we were put in groups and discussed questions that pertained to the symposium’s theme,” Butler said.

    Butler said the theme for this year’s event was “Serving Our Nation: Our Calling, Core Values and Commitment.”

    Experiencing the lifestyle at an actual military academy was also eye-opening for the group, as the cadets stayed in the dorms with the cadets attending the academy, Schulwitz said.

    “They got to see what the academy life was like compared to the ROTC life,” Schulwitz said. “There’s a big difference in how they treat freshmen compared to seniors. You have very little rights as a freshman. It’s just part of the process of earning your way.”

    Butler said he had never been to the academy and was impressed by it.

    “It was definitely different than what I’ve been around as an ROTC cadet but it was all around an awesome experience,” Butler said. “The dorms were not bad. I roomed with two other guys and was on a cot but it was actually better than I expected.”

    Schulwitz said being at the academy was an insightful experience for him as well.

    “I had never been there before so I got see where a lot of my friends went to school at,” Schulwitz said.

    Schulwitz said the only difficulty on the trip was travel, as inclement weather kept them from getting there on schedule.

    “We left Wednesday the 25th intending to get up there that night but the roads were shut down due to ice and we had to spend the night two hours south of the academy,” Schulwitz said.

    “We were able to get there in time the next morning though.”

    Butler said he gained a lot of valuable information from the event, which should be helpful when he is commissioned to be an officer at Fairchild Air Force Base near Spokane, Washington later in the year.

    “I walked away with a better understanding of how to improve my leadership skills,” Butler said.