Air Force ROTC diversity in military leadership

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Air Force ROTC Cadets practicing change of command. Cadet Bragado (far left), Cadet Weiss (center right), Cadet Cerriteno (center left), Cadet Frey (far right). Photo by Carlos Flores.

On the wet intramural field on Harmon Ave. and University Center Drive, United States Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) Detachment 004 is on the field doing their physical training. Cadets arrive before the sun begins to rise and by far the quietest the field will be. 

ROTC is comprised of a group of colleges and universities that offer training programs to commission officers of the United States Armed Forces 

Det 004 at UNLV is the only Air Force ROTC program in Nevada, hosting a wide range of diversity in cadet applications. Data from Det 004 reports that over 64 percent of all cadets at UNLV represent ethnic minorities.

“With UNLV being as diverse a school as it is, we are one of the most diverse ROTC units in the nation…,” Lt. Col. Joshua Williams, department chair and commander, said. “We love being here in Las Vegas because we have got all that diversity that comes just in this natural place where people from around the world come to.”

On the field, cadets shout the repetition count of the exercise in four separate groups. On this occasion, there is springing, upper body, lower body and core groups focusing on those muscles. 

The mission of the AFROTC is to develop military leaders of character. Det 004 at UNLV aims to promote community well-being and individual achievement as well as health, culture and diversity within their ranks and the surrounding community they serve, as reported by Det 004.

“ROTC is built to be a four-year program,” Williams said.

Williams continued that taking the ROTC program adds about 32 credit hours and students are awarded a minor in aerospace studies which is “essentially a minor in leadership.”

Ideally, students start out as a freshman called those “AS-100 cadets” and up to 400’s and beyond. 

Sophomores begin by studying the basics of leadership. 

“It’s all about leadership, small teams, large teams, leadership in general,” Williams said.

Cadets get sent to field training, a two-week-long course, after their sophomore year, which is the equivalent of basic training.

When cadets come back from field training, they are put into true leadership positions, with the title of Professional Officer Course (POC). POCs are responsible for building leadership activities and evaluating cadets.

“They are the ones that run the entire program,” Williams said. “Our job is to guide them … but our juniors and seniors run the entire program, and so the experience they get is exceptional.”

Det 004 has a support structure with Nellis Air Force base, Creech Air Force base, the Nevada testing training range, Williams said. There is local support that helps the department grow the program in turn helping strengthen the diversity. 

“My main goal is diversity,” Alexander London, AS-300 Cadet and Recruitment Officer said. “We want a program that is super diverse that includes people of different backgrounds and paths.”

The program reports an overall increase in cadets in recent years and among growing socio-demographic factors at Det 004 is gender. Data collected from the detachment’s wing holm center reported that 30 percent of all cadets in UNLVs AFROTC program are female.

“I’m number two in the program leading everyone,” Chloe Valdez, vice commander cadet, said. “What I love about this program is it’s just so diverse…it offers a lot of opportunities for people like me. There are so many diverse and unique people…It makes it even better to see different faces in the program.”

Diversity in Det 004 also extends to greater diversity in science, technology, engineering and Math (STEM).

“I’m majoring in chemistry and double minoring in biology and aerospace studies,” Pio Bragado, AS-200 cadet, said. “I was born in the Philippines and moved to the U.S. when I was 10 years old. During high school, I was in JROTC. It made me proud to wear that uniform and it made me realize that I am here to serve this country.”  

Once Bragado commissions, he plans on continuing his education to become a trauma surgeon for the Air Force.

The detachment’s wing holm center reported that 44 percent of cadets are STEM majors with a significant portion representing minority groups.

“Diversity in military leadership is important because it promotes creativity and innovation which drives our efficiency,” Bragado stated.

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