Rutgers AFROTC honor society earns commendations for volunteer activities
A cadet’s everyday life consists of more than the early morning training drills around campus that members of the Rutgers community are able to see, said Amanda Durkin, an Air Force cadet and Rutgers Business school junior.
Before earning their golden second lieutenant bars, a group of Air Force cadets wish to leave their marks in the community.
Thirteen members of the United States Air Force Reserve Officer Training Corps at Rutgers University — officially designated by the military as Detachment 485 — were recently commended for their volunteer work and achievement as a “squadron” of a national organization.
The Capt. Wilbur S. Darby squadron functions as a campus chapter of the Arnold Air Society, an honorary service association for cadets in ROTC college programs and in the Air Force Academy.
“We are not typical college students … but we’ll go to class with you and we’ll still wear civilian clothes — we are not always in uniform,” said Victoria Spare, a cadet and School of Environmental and Biological Sciences junior. “Like some other students, we also partake in community service and mentoring.”
The Rutgers squadron was bestowed with various regional and national awards this year at the society’s national conclave in Dallas, Texas. Among them was the Chennault Trophy for the most outstanding small squadron in the nation.
Spare said this specific award was the most significant because it recognized the difficulty faced by the 13-member group in their attempt to do the same level of community work as other squadrons in the nation with memberships of 50 and more.
Another accolade was the John K. Cannon award for most improved squadron in the area, reflects the group’s growth, Durkin said. A couple of years ago, the squadron here on campus nearly went inactive.
Marc Kwietniak, who was honored as the best squadron commander in the nation, was instrumental in the revamping of the group, Durkin said. The small outfit became one that is devoted to civic service and excellence.
“We all know each other,” she said. “We are like a family.”
Rutgers hosts an on-campus ROTC program that is partners with other academic institutions such as Princeton University and Monmouth University, who are also part of Detachment 485 — also knows as the “ravens.”
“The cadets that choose to be a part of the society have to go through extra training and volunteer work,” Spare said. “For some cadets, it is just a club, but for others, (it) is more than that. It’s a passion.”
Part of the work the squadron has done includes judging competitions for high school students in Air Force ROTC programs, hosting fundraising events for charity and visiting veterans.
The squadron recently hosted a push-up competition and raised over $1,100 for the Air Force Aid Society, the official charity of the United States Air Force, which provides financial assistance to both active and retired airmen and their families.
As part of a national campaign by the Arnold Air Society, the squadron was also able visit a group of World War II veterans at a retirement home this year. The war-time accounts of the former servicemen inspired the cadets.
An Army veteran who was in Normandy, France, during D-Day, told the cadets that as he saw American planes flying over him, he felt like the fighting was still ongoing even though it had already ceased.
“That story hit me the most,” Durkin said. “I mean that’s an intense moment. He was saying that it was over — the Air Force was only flying over to assess the damage — but for him, it just didn’t feel over.”
As they look forward in continuing their work, the Capt. Wilbur S. Darby squadron seeks to establish a Silver Wings unit — the civilian counterpart-part of the Arnold Air Society — at Rutgers.
Its establishment would allow students and community members to join and help the cadets with their community volunteering, Spare said. It also has the possibility to increase awareness for the ROTC programs on campus.
“I think that a lot of people associate ROTC with working out and yelling, but that’s actually not all we’re doing,” Durkin said. “An essential part of being in the Air Force is serving your community.”
Camilo Montoya-Galvez is a School of Arts and Sciences first-year student majoring in Spanish and journalism and media studies. He is a correspondent for The Daily Targum. Follow him on Twitter @camiloooom.