Camouflage can’t hide ROTC students’ love of country

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ROTC Cadet DJ Herr walks past the Wilk on his way to class. Some students at BYU train for the army and deserve recognition across campus. (Ari Davis)
ROTC Cadet DJ Herr walks past the Wilk on his way to class. Some students at BYU train for the army and deserve recognition across campus. (Ari Davis)

The uniform designed to camouflage cadets in the Air Force ROTC while in battle makes them stick out on BYU campus, but these students balance between duty to country and school responsibilities.

“I wanted to serve my country,” said Cadet 1st Lieutenant Scott Rodee, a senior attending Utah Valley University. “It was a personal decision to have a hand in protecting my friends and family.”

Separation from family, injury and broken hearts are natural concerns where deployment is concerned. Balancing family life and military service is also a challenge.

“It’s all about time management and priorities,” Rodee said. “I’m competitive to become a pilot. But if you’re not careful you can find yourself spending more time in ROTC than you should be. It’s been a fine line.”

ROTC members are grateful when their families support their decision to serve.

For Kendall Peterson, a freshman studying communications at BYU, joining the ROTC was a family affair. She said her parents are both proud of her.

“They’re really excited that I would take that next step in life,” Peterson said.

Cadet Philip Atoigue, a sophomore from Guam studying political science, told the story of his grandmother, who, as a 13-year-old girl, watched her people fall into captivity when Imperial Japan invaded Guam in the 1940s.

Little did she know that her grandson would find himself in the ROTC at BYU decades later.

Atoigue said that no matter what bad things happen in the world, there will always be an island in the Pacific that will stand with America because Guam has not forgotten the American allies. His grandmother still remembers that the Americans liberated their people. She cries every time she sees one of her children or grandchildren in uniform.

Rodee said although his family supported his decision to join the Air Force ROTC, he knows many cadets who do not have that same luxury. To them, finding support is a continuous challenge.

ROTC members have a promising career, with or without family support. Major Brent Heckel, assistant professor of aerospace studies, who meets with all incoming cadets, said the positives far outweigh the negatives.

Cadets in the Air Force ROTC program don’t need to worry about finding a job after graduation. They already know who they will be working for: the United States Air Force. The military offers an exciting career with professional leadership training, opportunities to work all over the world and a perspective that few Americans have.

The first step to join the Air Force ROTC is to be accepted to BYU or UVU. Freshmen are then able to add ROTC classes without any obligation to join the military.

Students pursue academic ambitions in whichever major they choose while attending military training. Sophomores continue military education with marching, military customs and physical training.

Students fly to Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama, for field training between their sophomore and junior years. The four-week program teaches students about weapon-handling and survival skills. Leadership skills are also refined.

Until their sophomore year, students are not obligated to sign up for the military. This gives students the opportunity to test the course. However, juniors must decide to continue with the program or not. ROTC is an ascension program into active duty. The basic obligation is four years in the military.

The main motivations to join include family tradition, a sense of duty and a desire to serve.

Rodee said his grandfather was a colonel in the Air Force, and he always wanted to be like him.

“My dad served in the military,” said Peterson. “A lot of my family served in the military, and I wanted to carry on that legacy.”

For those interested in joining the military, contact Major Heckel in Room 380 of the Wells ROTC Building.

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