Behind the uniform: What makes an ROTC cadet

UConn ROTC students practice for field marching in the Hawly Armoury on Thursday, Jan. 26, 2017. In the coming weeks ROTC members will start marching in uniform across campus to class. (Amar Batra/The Daily Campus)

Two students walk through campus on their way to their 9 a.m. lecture. One student wears a hoodie and pajama pants. The other student wears a neatly pressed blue uniform and shined shoes.

“I know sometimes it may seem strange to see people in uniform on campus, so we try to educate the population about what we do here,” Air Force ROTC Operations Flight Commander Steven Ortiz said.

The ROTC program (Reserve Officer Training Corps) is an elective curriculum that students can choose to take along with their usual studies. Commissioning through ROTC requires students to have a minimum of a bachelor’s degree and four years of in school training.

That training begins with a one-credit course for underclassman. The course is taught in a classroom setting with no commitment. It’s an opportunity to learn about the Air Force, said Ortiz.

The class is open to everyone on campus regardless of their year or plan of study.

“Anyone that has any interest in leadership studies, or just how to better themselves as a person can benefit from that class. A lot of the things we teach will make you better prepared in the military or in any job you go into,” Ortiz said. “We teach leadership, negotiation, mentoring skills… Skills that will set you up for success.”

Ortiz said that is was a pretty fun class, and not too challenging either. Some of the activities the course does includes: paintball, dining out, leadership reaction course, incentive ride and tours.

“We do get out in the community and practice quite a bit,” Ortiz said.

The upperclassmen three-credit course is for students committed to the Air Force. The class includes physical training and mentoring younger students. Those students do field training the summer before their junior year of college. After graduation, the cadets are obligated to serve four years of active duty in one of the many fields the Air Force offers.

The field training is like basic training, but for officers. Along with physical fitness components, the team works on land navigation and exploration, along with other team building and leadership activities.

“Cadet field training is really an assessment of their leadership skills and everything they’ve learned their freshman and sophomore years,” Ortiz said.

The students in the lower level class are paired with older students in the upper level class to act as mentors.

Ortiz said that UConn’s ROTC program differs from the other 1,000 programs at colleges across the country because of its diverse population.

“It’s something that I’m proud of,” Ortiz said. “We have a lot of numbers in the underrepresented categories in the country, like women and racial minorities. I’m Hispanic myself. At other universities it’s not like that and I’m very proud of it.”


Claire Galvin  is a contributor to The Daily Campus Life section.   He can be reached via email at claire.galvin@uconn.edu.