Air Force ROTC Celebrating 40 Years at Southeast

by News Bureau on Wednesday, Oct. 10, 2012

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CAPE GIRARDEAU, Mo., Oct. 10, 2012 – Forty years ago, the average price of a new home was $27,500, a new car was about $3,800, gas was 55 cents a gallon and the average annual income was $11,800.

That year was 1972, the same year Southeast Missouri State University was notified it was one of the 10 colleges selected for an Air Force Reserve Officers Training Program to be instituted that fall.

This fall, Air Force ROTC is celebrating its 40th anniversary on the campus of Southeast Missouri State University. An event commemorating the milestone is planned for Oct. 20 during Southeast’s Homecoming celebration.

According to Dr. Kenneth W. Dobbins, president of Southeast Missouri State University, “We are so pleased to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the Air Force ROTC program on our campus. As a former Air Force ROTC-commissioned officer myself, I am very aware of how vitally important the ROTC Program is to our nation’s defense. Southeast’s program has been responsible for training some outstanding Air Force officers, and we look forward to welcoming back to campus some of the nation’s best and brightest.”

All former Air Force ROTC cadets are invited to a brunch from 10:30 a.m. to noon on Saturday, Oct. 20, in the University Center Redhawks Room. The brunch is free for returning cadets. For more information on the brunch, contact Vance Pawielski at vspawielski@semo.edu or (573) 651-2184.

The 40th anniversary celebration on campus follows the U.S. Air Force’s 65th anniversary as a national service last month. In September 1947, it became a full military partner with the U.S. Army and the U.S. Navy.

The establishment of an Air Force Reserve Officers Training Program at Southeast in 1972 marked the third time a military unit had been on the University campus. During World War I, a Student Army Training Corps unit was established here, and, again during World War II, men were trained on campus for the Navy’s V-12 program.

The Honorable Senator Stuart Symington notified Dr. Mark Scully, then president of the University, of the assignment of the unit. The detachment’s first commanding officer was Lt. Col. Robert L. Mize, a 1950 Southeast alumnus. On Aug. 10, 1972, the ROTC unit was housed in the old Campus School Building (now Rosemary Berkel Crisp Hall), and 80 students enrolled in the program for the fall semester.

Today, the cadets are in the same cadet corps along with the Southern Illinois University-Carbondale’s (SIU-C) cadets, and Air Force instructors come to Southeast to teach. Organizationally, the students fall under operational control of Detachment 205 located at SIU-C.

Freshmen and sophomore cadets spend at least five hours a week with ROTC, and sophomores and juniors commit to seven hours a week. Their time is spent in a leadership lab, working out twice a week at 6 a.m. and taking either a one-credit hour or three-credit hour course. Junior and senior courses in Air Force ROTC focus on leadership and management training. These leadership courses are open to any Southeast student.

Cadets are required to stay in top-notch physical shape with height and weight restrictions. They also must abide by academic and legal requirements, and possess leadership potential for becoming a military officer. “To be a cadet and a future officer takes discipline, commitment and the ability to lead,” said Pawielski, communications coordinator with Air Force ROTC at Southeast. Southeast junior Cole Trover of Troy, Ill., is a flight commander. He is responsible for 15 freshman cadets. He ensures they are trained, get to SIU-C for a lab and coordinates extra-curricular activities. “I don’t know many courses on campus that give you that kind of hands-on supervisory experience while still in college,” Pawielski said. Several graduates of the program have put these skills to work time and again throughout their careers.

Bob Fish Bob Fish of Tullahoma, Tenn., served as the first Commandant of Cadets when Air Force ROTC was launched at Southeast in 1972. “Of all my assignments in my Air Force career, memories of those rough and tumble first years at SEMO stand out,” he said. “Back then, AFROTC floundered at many campuses, and our detachment commander, Lt. Col Bob Mize, faced a real challenge just to get someone to sign up. The success at SEMO was in no small measure the quality of the first class of cadets who set the tone for recruiting and leadership of those who chose to join our happy band. Our first small class to earn commissions stood out in many ways, a mixture of service veterans only five or so years younger than me, and raw kids wanting to fly.”

Missouri Rep. Wayne Wallingford

Missouri Rep. Wayne Wallingford of Cape Girardeau is a former commander of the Air Force ROTC detachment at Southeast, where he served from 1985 to 1989. “It’s a great program,” he said, both for people contemplating military careers as well others planning for a civilian future. He says students in the program learn about management practices, discipline and leadership skills. “That’s one of the hardest things to find in any organization,” he said. Air Force ROTC “is a great opportunity to learn some of those things. The program fills a really good need.” Wallingford now serves in the Missouri legislature after retiring from the U.S. Air Force as a lieutenant colonel, having served on active duty for 25 years. His service included five tours in Vietnam from 1970 to 1973, where he flew more than 300 combat missions, and six tours in Desert Storm. He is the recipient of 47 medals for his service, including the Silver Star (the third-highest honor bestowed by the U.S. military) and Distinguished Flying Cross. Wallingford was elected in 2010 to represent the 158th District. In the House, he serves as vice chair of the Higher Education Committee and also serves on the Economic Development Committee, among others. In addition, he was appointed to the House Majority Whip team.

Col. Archibald Bruns

Col. Archibald Bruns is a 1988 graduate of Southeast’s ROTC program. He is currently the director of Manpower, Personnel and Services at Headquarters Air Force Global Strike Command at Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana, where he is responsible for policies, programs and objectives involving assignments, education and training, separations, retirements, career progression, classification, manpower, services, and quality of life for more than 23,000 people and their families.

“As a graduate and former ROTC Corps Commander from Southeast … my connections and admiration for the organization that jump-started my Air Force career are enduring and something I’m extremely proud of,” he said.

Bruns has held a myriad of positions within the personnel field throughout his career. He entered active duty in October 1988 as the chief of Personnel Utilization at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware, and he deployed in support of Operation DESERT SHIELD/STORM as PERSCO team chief to Sharjah, United Arab Emirates, from August 1990 to April 1991.

Bruns further served at the unit level as a Military Personnel Flight and Mission Support Squadron commander. His staff experience includes tours in the Pentagon and within the Headquarters United States European Command. Prior to his current position, Bruns was the commander of the 65th Mission Support Group at Lajes Field in Azores, Portugal.

He has received numerous awards and decorations, including the Defense Superior Service medal, Legion of Merit, Meritorious Service Medal with three oak leaf clusters, Joint Service Commendation Medal, Air Force Commendation Medal with three oak leaf clusters, and Joint Service Achievement Medal.

Lt. Col Ronald Daniels

Lt. Col. Ronald Daniels, a 1989 graduate of Southeast with a degree in marketing management, serves as an advisor for all Air National Guard matters among the eight organizations comprising the Spaatz Center for Officer Education and as a coordinator for all plans and directions for the Air Reserve Component Seminar program at Air War College and Air Command and Staff College at Maxwell Air Force Base in Alabama.

As the first commander of Detachment 12 Air National Guard Readiness Center at Maxwell Air Force Base, he was responsible for relocating the Air National Guard’s Academy of Military Science there from the McGhee Tyson Air National Guard Base in Tennessee and then commissioning 1,260 Air National Guard officers through the Academy of Military Science program.

In 1989, Daniels was commissioned into the U.S. Air Force. After completing undergraduate missile training at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, he was assigned to the 564th Missile Squadron at Malmstrom Air Force Base in Montana. He operated space systems at three different space wings and was selected as the 310th Space Group’s first chief of Standardization and Evaluation. He also taught Air Force ROTC at Southeast and Southern Illinois University-Carbondale.

“I look forward to coming in for Homecoming. It will be the first time I’ve been back for Homecoming in over 10 years,” he said.

Daniels’ major awards and decorations include the Meritorious Service Medal with two Oak Leaf Clusters, Air Force Commendation Medal with two Oak Leaf Clusters, Air Force Achievement Medal with one Oak Leaf Cluster, Combat Crew Readiness Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, Air Force Outstanding Unit Award with seven Oak Leaf Clusters, Air Force Organizational Excellence Award, and Air Force Space Command Crew Member Excellence Award.

Michael Berry

Michael Berry, a retired Air Force major who now works on campus in Testing Services, has more than a recollection of Air Force ROTC. After all, he was a cadet in the program.

“I joined the ROTC program at Southeast as a cadet in 1977. I hadn’t planned on going into the Air Force, but I needed an extra hour on my schedule,” Berry said. “When I first enrolled at Southeast, the ROTC class fit, so I thought I’d try it for a semester.”

He says he enjoyed it, stuck with the program and stays in contact with a number of former cadets. Berry said the four years he spent with these cadets have built lifelong friendships. He graduated from Southeast in 1981 and was commissioned a 2nd Lieutenant.

His time at Southeast was not over, though. After spending nearly 20 years traveling around the world in a number of different assignments, Berry got the opportunity to return in 2000 to run the ROTC program at Southeast as the department chair and Commandant of Cadets.

“I’ve enjoyed my Air Force career and the opportunities I’ve had as a result of going through the ROTC program here at Southeast,” he said. “Running the program for five years was probably the most enjoyable job I have ever had. Helping students achieve a goal is extremely rewarding. I see the same lifelong friendships being built among cadets now as there was 30 years ago.”

Jay Strack

Jay Strack is a 1982 graduate of Southeast who, for the last three years, has been working for Camber Corporation as a government contractor, working with the United States Air Force Air Education and Training Command Headquarters Special Missions Division, focusing on preparing air advisors for operations in Afghanistan and Iraq. He currently lives in San Antonio, Texas.

In 2009, he retired from the U.S. Air Force after serving for more than 26 years and logging more than 6,500 hours of flying. During most of his career, he was a pilot in Special Operations and Rescue MC-130 Ps and HC-130P/N aircraft; during his last six years of duty, he was a T-1 Jayhawk instructor pilot.

“Air Force was a great career and a great life,” he said.