Air Force headquarters announced BYU’s Air Force ROTC, Detachment 855, as No. 1 in the nation for Team Excellence for year 2014 on Jan. 16.
No. 1 of 145 different detachments in the nation is a “huge deal,” according to Colonel Paul M. Kucharek, ROTC detachment commander for Detachment 855 at BYU.
Kurcharek has been colonel since 2009, but despite his many accomplishments, he believes this success should be largely attributed to the cadets.
“From my perspective, the cadets run the activities that they participate in; the award is a product of their initiative, hard work and effort,” Kucharek said. “It’s a great opportunity to train the next generation of Air Force leaders, especially this caliber of a group.”
The award is given based off of three categories listed as Process and/or Accomplishment; Impact and Results; Sustainment and Standardization. The categories encompass general academics of the team, service in community events, recruits and various boards throughout the year.
BYU’s Air Force helped in 61 different community events in 2014, adding up to more than 915 man-hours during that period.
BYU’s Air Force ROTC competes consistently in various athletic and tactical competitions. It was ranked No. 1 in 2014 for its drill team and color guard at the Southern California invitational.
The Air Force’s overall GPA and fitness scores generally rank among the top 10, but it’s BYU’s first time receiving a national award for being No. 1.
Major Mark Slik has been in the Air Force for 27 years and was excited about the ranking. He explained that when Kucharek announced the new national ranking, there were plenty of yelps and hurrahs.
“It’s pretty amazing when you think about it,” Slik said. “We’re all pretty proud.”
Slik stated that they would continue to step up their program in order to continue achieving excellence but acknowledged that their new status means that the No. 2 ranking will be gunning for them in 2015, considering the amount of competition among detachments.
ROTC faculty acknowledged that an extra accomplishment that probably helped them win the award was their 2014 9/11 vigil commemoration.
The vigil honored the servicemen and women who gave their lives to defend the nation. Cadets remembered the planes used in the terrorist attacks symbolically with a rose at a wreath. The ceremony closed with taps, helping to connect people and end the event on a soft tone.
With more than 100 cadets in the program, it’s pretty exciting news.
Different faculty members explained that the award is bound to bring the group together, “motivate” it and help it “move forward.”
Cadet Wing Commander from Henderson, Nevada, Jonathon Hedger, was excited for the positive influence it would provide to the 855 Detachment.
“There’s bound to be a new atmosphere,” Hedger said. “Newer cadets have been given more immediate leadership opportunities, but beside that, there’s not much else to change.”