Air Force training program prepares 5 Rutgers students for military service
In their final year at Rutgers’ Air Force Reserve Officer Training Corps (AFROTC), five senior students discovered their career path as future leaders in the U.S. Air Force.
Located on the College Avenue campus, AFROTC Detachment 485 — which is part of a larger web of 1,100 Air Force campuses across the U.S. — trains students in a three or four year leadership-based program that prepares cadets for military service as commissioned officers.
This year, five cadets were informed of their new careers. These students included Colin Chehanske who will be an intelligence officer, Sean Han who will be in cyberspace operations, Mallory Kusakavitch who will work in aircraft maintenance, Jackie Nazario who will work in personnel and Yesenia Padilla who will work in space operations. All five students will complete their four-year program and graduate in 2018.
The cadets have worked together as a team for four years. The program starts out by teaching the first-year cadets the basics of the Air Force and their role in it, said Capt. Kayla Stevens, an active-duty Air Force officer and a Detachment 485 cadre (member of the training staff) that helps teach cadets.
The biggest shift comes junior year, when the cadets become a part of the Professional Officer Corp., and start teaching the underclassmen at Detachment 485 and begin to run the day-to-day ROTC operation, Stevens said.
Along with this, the cadets were able to explore their new career as part of the Air Force.
Han said officers in his field are cyberspace experts or “cyberwarriors,” who monitor the defense of computer networks and utilize new military technologies.
“According to the articles I’ve been reading, the next war is going to be a cyber war, compared to what we’ve seen in the past, so I think it’s a very important career field I’m going into,” he said.
Han said he does not come from a background in computers, but the great thing about the Air Force is that it sends people to specialized schools after they graduate that will teach them the skill sets they need for their new role.
Padilla, the first in her family to serve in the military, said she is excited to be a part of space operations – or the 13S career field — since she saw more investment from the Air Force going into it.
Padilla said the space operations oversee space surveillance that works behind-the-scenes to command and control satellites that monitor threats which are constantly happening.
“On one of the bases the motto is ‘The sun never sets on 13S,’” Padilla said.
Nazario said she is animated for her new position not only for network opportunities but also to help other officers reach their full potential.
Personnel officers oversee Air Force office operations, handle paperwork and manage the organization's structure, she said. Nazario will also be involved in developing educational programs and counseling available to Air Force officers.
“They have to know about everything,” she said.
Kusakavitch said she will oversee up to 100 people that plan aircraft inspections, deliver combat support and perform airdrops.
Kusakavitch, who currently attends Monmouth University, commutes to Rutgers for the program and said ROTC taught her to always keep pushing herself to new limits and to build others up with her.
“It’s not an individual effort, it’s all about the team,” she said.
Each cadet said they came from a unique background, but looking back they agreed that being part of the ROTC program taught them to become confident in themselves and to grow into a more selfless person.
Han said that thinking of doing things on your own in the ROTC program will not lead to success because it means that you are failing your teammate.
Apart from a support system and teamwork that aims to grow everyone into a leader, Padilla said the Air Force gives her a sense of security and optimism.
“I feel what this program really taught me is even though there is an obstacle in your way, you’ll get through it and it’ll make you a better person. In a couple months, I’ll be in a brand-new state surrounded by new people and things I don’t know, and it does sound a little daunting, but at the end of the day, I know it will work itself out," Padilla said. "I think that’s what ROTC has prepared and taught me: sometimes you don’t know the unknown, but in a couple months you will — and you’ll be okay.”