Three-star general visits to celebrate ROTC graduates

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    A three-star general in the U.S. Air Force will visit campus Saturday for the annual Air Force ROTC Dining Out event to honor tradition and celebrate its graduating members.

    Public Affairs Officer Joseph Phillips, a freshman criminal justice major, said the opportunity to hear from Lt. Gen. Thomas J. Owen, a high-ranking officer, is a unique opportunity that reemphasizes the closeness of the Air Force as a program.

    “The fact that he’s coming to talk to us makes the Air Force feel small and personal,” Phillips said.

    Less than 0.5 percent of commissioned officers make it to the top three ranks in the Air Force, Phillips said. Lt. Gen. is the second-highest rank in the entire Air Force, he said.

    According to Owen’s biography on the Air Force website, he is currently the commander of the Aeronautical Systems Center at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio. He entered the air force in 1978 after graduating from the Air Force Academy, according to the biography.

    The Dining Out event is a military tradition dating back to George Washington, Phillips said.

    Allie Garner, Air Force ROTC director of special projects, said Dining Out was intended to raise morale, honor members and bring members together as an organization to celebrate. Thirty minutes of the program would be spent recognizing senior members specifically, she said.

    Garner, a senior broadcast journalism major, said that while planning the event had been stressful, she valued the tradition of the program and the opportunity to recognize her fellow seniors. Each senior will be honored individually by an ROTC faculty member who will speak about his or her accomplishments while in the program. She said the seniors will be escorted by someone that is important in their lives.

    “Dining Out is definitely all about tradition, and that’s something that means a lot to me because it’s the lifestyle that I’ve chosen,” Garner said. “I think it’s going to be a great cap to the end of a great year and a great four years.”

    Garner said she would deploy in July for Combat Systems Officer training in Pensacola, Fla.

    “I think [Dining Out] is a great opportunity for our organization, not only for ourselves,” Garner said. “But hopefully people will recognize how important ROTC is to us and to the military.”