Students fly high

Cadet Wing Commander Marissa Trujillo leads a group of Air Force ROTC cadets Wednesday afternoon through campus. 

SHANNON BRODERICK/Boomerang photographer

The University of Wyoming Air Force ROTC program is small, but its leaders think it has the potential to grow.

The Air Force ROTC Detachment 940 invites UW students into a program teaching leadership and training for their time in the Air Force after graduation.

There are currently 30-35 cadets in the program, almost entirely lower classmen — there are only three juniors and two seniors, Cadet Wing Commander Marissa Trujillo said.

“We have 21 first year cadets,” she said. “That’s actually amazing. However, we’ve had to become creative to make sure the upper classmen can continue running things.”

While there are five Air Force cadre teachers and advisors with the program, the cadets play a huge part in operations, Commander Samuel Shearer said.

“We really are just the advisors,” he said. “This is a cadet-run program. We really want them to run it because they are the future leadership of the Air Force.”

The program is relatively small compared to surrounding ROTC programs, but Shearer said it isn’t a negative.

“In a way, when things are smaller, you get more attention and more feedback,” he said.

Trujillo also prefers the smaller program and atmosphere, she said.

“Just the way I see our detachment — it’s closer, it’s better, its more motivating than other detachments around us because our small numbers really allow us to connect with each other,” she said.

While the program is currently on the smaller side, Recruiting Flight Commander George Noah said recruitment could grow larger in coming years. The UW Air Force ROTC will now have a representative at the post-high school planning days around the state.

“We haven’t been able to go to it for the last couple years, and now we’ll be able to reach out to 90 percent of high school students,” Noah said. “That’s one of the reasons we’re so small, just because the only recruiting we’ve done in the last couple years is here on campus or in Cheyenne and Laramie.”

Shearer also said the national focus of the Air Force has changed and started to recruit more people.

“We’re coming back to the phase where they’re trying to grow the Air Force,” he said. “We’ve relaxed some of our requirements so it’s a little easier to get a field allocation training slot, and that allows a student to continue from their sophomore into their junior year. If they don’t get that, they don’t continue.”

Enrolling in the Air Force ROTC program as a freshman offers flexibility, Noah said.

“As a freshman, you’ll come in and take a foundation of the air force course,” he said. “It’s kind of an introduction to the military and what to expect from ROTC. They’ll get an overview of what the four years will look like.”

Freshmen students are not on a contract — they are allowed to drop the program and leave if desired.

“We have more of a gradual process,” Noah said. “They get to try out the program and see if they like it. It’s great for people who are on the fence about it because they can try it out before committing.”

Sophomore year courses are focused on history of the Air Force and preparing cadets for field training.

“It’s a leadership-oriented version of basic training,” Noah said.

A three-year program for sophomore students interested in joining is also available. The Air Force ROTC offers scholarships for students joining late, Shearer said.

“I think a lot of students aren’t aware they can do ROTC,” he said. “If the person is interested and they’re qualified — with a few exceptions, if they have three or more years of school left, we’ll enroll them in the program.”

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