Juan Villa / The Collegian
Air Force ROTC named best in country
Fresno Stateâ€™s Air Force Reserve Officer Training Corps (AFROTC) knew they were good. The group of 61 cadets kept their grades up, contributed countless hours in community service work, and excelled in competition against ROTC groups from other schools.
But even with the outstanding ratings the cadets earned in readiness inspections earlier this year, they never expected to earn the Right of Line Award for being the best mid-sized unit in the country.
â€œI didnâ€™t think we had a great chance,â€ said Maj. Tom Ringlein, a Fresno State alumni and an active duty Air Force officer. Ringlein, also a graduate of the ROTC program, said the award is a two-year award and it shows that the group is doing the right things.
To Lt. Col. Sam Vandiver, Commander of AFROTC at Fresno State, the Right of Line Award is a position of honor. He points to cadet leadership, field training performance and the cadetsâ€™ activities as the criteria that the group demonstrated to earn the award.
â€œAir Force ROTC cadets are typically overachievers,â€ Vandiver said. He said the competition for the award can be intense and fanatical. While the Fresno State bunch didnâ€™t set their goal on winning the award from the outset, they have earned it.
Juan Villa/ The Collegian
â€œItâ€™s like the [underdogs to] wonderdogs story, itâ€™s a great parallel,â€ Vandiver said.
The last award Fresno State AFROTC had earned before the two this year was when the 1980 AFROTC won the regional award for best detachment, or body of troops.
Earlier this year, the Fresno State AFROTC was awarded the High Flight Award for being the best detachment in the southwest region. Now, they have been recognized nationally.
One of the things that helped the group earn the Right of Line and High Flight awards is the community service the cadets are involved with. The Arnold Air Society and the Silver Wings are two groups that many of the cadets get involved with.
According to Josh Guzman, an AFROTC cadet, most of the students are in the Arnold Air Society. He also mentioned a program that helps fight cancer and said that cadets will be manning telephones in an upcoming telethon event.
â€œAnd, weâ€™re big on recruiting,â€ Guzman said. He said the cadets handle their own recruiting and look to their commanders as mentors that can tell the cadets what they should be doing when they need advice.
While military service includes boot camp and many hours dedicated to hard work, cadets in the unit said they still have plenty of time for fun.
David Hubbard, another senior cadet, said a strong sense of school spirit in the group has helped keep morale up. In addition to attending Fresno State athletic events, the AFROTC competes in flag football games and competitions like the â€œWarrior Challengeâ€ against other ROTC programs in California.
â€œWe won the last five [competitions], but we play smarter, not harder,â€ Hubbard said. The lounge for AFROTC houses numerous trophies that show the competitive spirit the group exemplifies.
Ryan Tubongbanua / The Collegian
The parallels of the unitâ€™s rise from relative unknown to the nationâ€™s best and the Fresno State baseball teamâ€™s national championship are on the minds of at least a few of the cadets. Senior Bradley Hunt, who is a cadet Wing Commander, aspires to be a fighter pilot in the future and said he takes pride in the award.
â€œWeâ€™re not on ESPN, but itâ€™s just as prestigious,â€ Hunt said.
Other cadets like senior Tim Alvord share the same sentiment.
â€œIt goes along with the pride of the Valley theme,â€ Alvord said.
While the cadets will be proud of their award and will share their accomplishments with Fresno State AFROTC detachments for years to come, where they all end up while serving in the Air Force is anybodyâ€™s guess.
â€œWe all end up doing great things,â€ Guzman said.