By Mikala McCurry
There are 145 United States Air Force Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) Detachments across the United States. Detachment 019 is hosted in Montgomery at Alabama State University.
“Air Force ROTC is a four year program where we build leaders who earn their commission to start the officer progression in the Air Force, and Space Force,” Lt. Col. Boyer, Detachment 019 Commander, said.
The detachment was founded in 1971 at ASU with the first graduating class in 1974 of 13 second lieutenants. It now hosts four other local colleges, including Auburn University Montgomery, Huntingdon College, Faulkner University, and Troy University Montgomery. It is considered a small detachment with 28 cadets in the pipeline across the five schools.
AFROTC courses are focused on military leadership, discussing military history, operational planning, and military operation concepts. They also conduct student-taught “leadership laboratories” courses, where freshman and sophomore cadets are taught by junior and senior cadets.
“The curriculum is designed to grow cadets into leaders,” Detachment 019 instructor and Operations Officer Maj. Andrew Huddleston said. “We teach the same curriculum across all Air Force ROTC Detachments, and we provide a similar curriculum to what you’d get in a management-style course.”
Although all detachments teach the same curriculum, Detachment 019 sets itself apart with the commitment and service according to Lt. Col. Boyer. Their staff includes several military members, including Lt. Col. Boyer, Maj. Huddleston, and Staff Sgt. Niambi Sibley, who does Administration for the program.
“We try to understand the cadets’ stories, where they are coming from, and where they want to be. We try to nurture and encourage that while giving them the opportunity to lead each other,” she explained. “I tell cadets, ‘you have four years to figure out who you are as a leader, and this is the place to test that out’.”
Lt. Col. Boyer encourages parents to start early in teaching and exposing their children to the importance of the military and create awareness of that option for a career path before they get to college.
“My big thing is to encourage this idea of service and being part of something that is bigger than you,” she said. “Encourage kids to want to help their communities and serve their nation.”
According to military statistics, less than 2% of the U.S. population are in the military. Detachment 019 goes out into the community and attends events at high schools to recruit and inspire students to join.
“We hope that if they see us, then maybe they’ll get inspired and want to be like us,” Lt. Col. Boyer said. “The students are the best recruiters we have and part of the hope that we have for the future, so we have to invest in them.”
Detachment 019 offers several benefits to cadets. The detachment prides itself on providing a family atmosphere. They also offer two-to-four-year scholarships, in-depth medical screening that a student would not get during a standard physical, and a monthly stipend in addition to job security after graduation.
“Most college students aren’t figuring out what they want to do after college until their junior or senior year. Students in this program already have a career path set when they graduate, which typically puts them ahead of their peers,” Tangela Spenser, an instructor and recruiter for Detachment 019, said. “They will have opportunities that their peers who aren’t in the program won’t have.”
Christian Porter and Jalen Thompson are both senior cadets in Detachment 019 and both joined because of family influence. They’ve both benefited greatly from the program so far and encourage high school students who are interested in the military to try it out.
“The program has taken me from a shy, quiet person to a more outspoken leader, and that’s what the program is about: leadership development and progression,” Cadet Porter said.
Cadet Thompson has seen a shift in his mindset as a member of the program.
“AFROTC pushed me to develop communication skills, drew me out of my shell, and got me out of my comfort zone,” he said. “It has also gotten me to shift my focus from being only on myself to now helping others as well.”
The Detachment 019 team enjoys watching cadets transform into leaders throughout their progression in the program.
“Many of the cadets come in introverted and not wanting to step up and be the one in front, but by the time they leave here, they are de facto that because that’s what we train and expect. They are able to do that when the time calls,” Maj. Huddleston said.
As an instructor, Tangela Spenser enjoys seeing students from recruiting events to fulfilling their purpose in their Air Force careers after graduating from the AFROTC program.
“I met an 11th grade student at a recruiting event who came to the AFROTC program here and is now an active-duty pilot in the Air Force. To watch that shy young man who excelled to the top of his class and is now doing well in the world is the most rewarding thing,” she said.
Staff Sgt. Sibley enjoys mentoring the cadets, treating them like family, and being there for them at this pivotal time in their lives.
“If anything is going on, I’m always the one to ask them about it. You have a lot of people that are dealing with challenges, so I want to be that person that they feel comfortable coming to,” she said.
The detachment’s main vision and focus is growth and to become one of the showcase detachments for the Air Force.
“There’s so much to be proud about Detachment 019. I want the current cadets to leave a legacy, and I want to start educating and recruiting younger students in Montgomery, Elmore, Wetumpka, Millbrook, and other surrounding areas to be inspired to serve,” Lt. Col. Boyer said.
For students to participate in Air Force ROTC, they must be full-time students, U.S. citizens (or working on U.S. citizenship), and meet certain GPA requirements. They must also take and pass the Air Force Officer Qualifying Test and a physical fitness assessment each semester.
For more information, follow Detachment 019 on Instagram @AFROTC019 or Facebook @AFROTC 019 – Alabama State University. Interested students can also search for the detachment on the Air Force ROTC website.
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