Serving their country while in college

Rachel Polchek

Sophomore cadet shares personal

experience with Air Force ROTC

Andrea Fisk was born and raised in a military family – her parents are retired and her brothers are currently involved.

“It just seemed like the next logical step for me,” said Fisk, a sophomore cadet.

Now that she’s in ROTC, Fisk is dedicated to her goal of becoming a pilot upon graduation.

“You have to put so much of your heart and soul into it if you want to go places,” she said.

Every day, besides Tuesday, she is up early for her 6 a.m. physical training.

Fisk said physical training is a huge part of ROTC.

“You can’t fight a war if you’re not physically fit,” she said.

Every Tuesday, she, along with all other cadets, have an ROTC course that is required each semester. It’s a lab in which cadets practice skills such as marching, drill and shooting.

“A lot of times we do fun things during our lab,” Fisk said. “Last week we went rock climbing.”

She is also preparing for field training this summer. Field training must be completed in order for a cadet to become a junior in the program.

“It’s going to be tough, but I think they’re preparing us really well,” Fisk said.

Cadets are required to complete these activities along with a normal course load. Cadets can major in anything; no specific major is required to join the program.

“ROTC gives me the extra incentive to do well in school,” Fisk said.

Her goal is to get a pilot slot, and she can’t reach that with poor grades.

Air Force ROTC also offers networking connections to cadets.

“Later in life you never know who you’re going to run into,” she said.

Last summer Fisk went on professional development training. While at training, she and her detachment met a cadet from Florida. He ended up being on Fisk’s flight at field training.

“It’s such a small world in the military,” Fisk said.

Being in Air Force ROTC is challenging, Fisk said. “Every semester they kick up the expectations.

“The older you get in the program, the more leadership roles they put on you, but you don’t even notice it happening,” she said. “I’ve grown so much.”

Fisk said the people involved are a reason why she enjoys Air Force ROTC so much. “I don’t know what I would do without these people in my life.

“You have your friends; then you have your military friends,” Fisk said. “You know your military friends are going to be there for you when you need them.”

Everyone who is remotely interested in joining the military should at least try it, Fisk said.

“Air Force ROTC is a big commitment, but it’s definitely worth it,” she said. “I don’t know where I would be if I had never joined.”

Senior cadet completing ROTC program

Before joining ROTC, senior cadet Alex Barnett wasn’t sure about his post-secondary options.

“In high school I never really thought I was college material, but being here has totally changed me,” he said.

Now, after more than four years of early mornings, extensive training and dedication to ROTC, Barnett said he is thankful for the program but ready to graduate and start his career.

Air Force ROTC does take dedication and hard work, but there’s not too much expected from underclassmen, he said.

Freshmen and sophomores are required to take a one credit hour course each semester.

Between a cadet’s sophomore and junior year in the program, he or she is required to go to field training. There, cadets learn marching techniques and are rated against their peers. Upon completion of field training, cadets come back to the detachment as juniors.

Barnett said field training is not as bad as most cadets fear it will be.

“We’d wake up at 6 a.m. every morning, we’d go work out, have breakfast and then we’d do some kind of activity. Now they do more combat-oriented activities,” he said. “I think it would be a lot more fun now than it was when I went.”

Barnett suggested to be prepared and get in shape for field training, but he admitted underclassmen are over-prepared for the most part.

As a junior, Barnett was a flight commander after field training; later he worked on a special operation.

At the start of Barnett’s senior year, he was a field training preparation commander.

“I trained the cadets getting ready to go to field training,” he said.

Currently, Barnett is a Wing Commander – he acts as a liaison between cadets and officers and also helps plan the activities and events for the underclassmen’s ROTC course.

Being an education major, Barnett broke down the levels of students in the ROTC program and compared them to the different

levels of staff at a high school.

“I would be the principal, the juniors in the program would be the teachers, the sophomores would be the students,” he said.

He said people involved in the program have become his best friends. ROTC has given Barnett a sense of guidance.

“I’ve become more studious, more athletic and just an all-around better person,” he said. “I have a lot more motivation to get the job done.”

Barnett became interested in ROTC while tagging along to college visits with his older brother.

“He would go to the interviews with school officials, and I would be asking about ROTC,” Barnett said. “I became interested in it.”

Barnett is graduating in May and is going to be an aircraft maintenance officer at Tyndall Air Force Base in Florida.

“ROTC is a time you’ll never forget,” Barnett said.

Contact ROTC and Alumni Affairs reporter Rachel Polchek at [email protected].