Making leaders who will serve here and abroad

Army ROTC cadets stand at attention after their weekly lab class on Wednesday, Nov. 2, 2016 as their peer makes announcements in preparation for the weekend's events. (Diana Giraldo/The Collegian).
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“Leadership, excellence, today” are the words the Army ROTC cadets are taught to live by during and after they finish their journey at Fresno State.

Master Sgt. Jose Quijas, a Military Science Instructor, said the word “today” in their mantra is key.

If they want to be leaders, they have to be leaders today. They have to have the leadership ability to lead men and women in combat, that’s what they are working to get to,” Quijas said. “They have to always be striving for excellence as far as today – not tomorrow – not the next day – not the next week – today.”

The Army ROTC is designed to prepare the cadets to become officers. Each of them are pushed to reach excellence in every area of their life – from their school work to community service.

One of the initiatives the organization helped lead is Fresno State’s first Veterans Week, which was officially kicked off by the Veterans 5K run Saturday and served as a fundraising event to help raise money for veterans.

“What we operate off of is the servant-leadership mentality, which is to go out and find where the university or the community needs help and do it with a heart of giving and a sense of service,” said Maj. Boyce Buckner, chair of Military Science. “We are in the idea of legacy, people-building and making solid leaders to go out in this world and do great and amazing things.”

During the week, a memorial service will be held by veterans and student veterans organizations starting at 10 a.m. Nov. 10 with the Army ROTC presenting colors at the Veterans Monument near the Frank W. Thomas Building flagpole.

Once the memorial service ends, the Armed Forces Walk of Honor will begin at the Rose Garden and end at Henry Madden Library. The walk will showcase all of the veteran tributes on campus and will be guided by an Air Force Academy veteran.

The walk will lead to the exhibit, “Honoring Our Veterans: We are the Home of the Free Because of the Brave,” located in the library’s Diversity Lounge on the second floor. The exhibition ends Nov. 30.

The week will be conclude with the Fresno Veterans Parade in downtown, where the first combined Fresno State veterans council march group, made up of student veterans and ROTC cadets in one formation, will march together to represent Fresno State, Buckner said. The parade will start at 11 a.m. at Fresno City Hall and will end at Chukchansi Park.

“The goal is team-building and sharing with everybody what we do,” Buckner said. “We will have cadets do everything from run the 5K, to help setup the student veteran service, to help escort veterans in the Walk of Honor, and march in the parade”

When the students aren’t looking for ways to help the community by organizing events, cleaning Bulldog Stadium before and after every football game, or being trained in active shooter response with the Blue Dot Initiative, they are focusing on their school work and completing ROTC requirements.

“We look at our students as athletes because they model very similarly to them,” Buckner said. “You see how early we come in, there are not too many sports teams that are up that early and not too many people at our university.”

Each cadet knows the drill: they are up as early as 4 a.m. and are to be in formation by 5:20 a.m. where they commence physical training which lasts an hour. During the hours they engage in focused physical training which is tailored to the requirements each cadet has to complete to pass the Army Physical Fitness Test (APFT) that is designed to test the muscular strength, endurance and cardiovascular-respiratory fitness of the prospective officers.

“What we call it, is functional fitness to be a soldier, an athlete and a leader,” Buckner said. “That is just an hour out of their morning on top of all of their other workout. So when athletes go to practice, our students go to work out and continue to build upon what they did that morning.”

Once they complete their training they begin their school day which can include their general education, major courses, a special ROTC class and a leadership lab where they have military-oriented training.

“Between the training, the physical strain and being expected to train on my own as well, it really requires a tremendous effort on your part, but I like to say that in order to get what, you want you have to make sacrifices,” said Ruby Ruiz, a psychology junior and a cadet. “If you have to sacrifice sleep, you sacrifice sleep. Or if you have to sacrifice your social life, that’s just what you do.”

In the labs the cadets are exposed to Key Leader Engagement training where they role-play the events that cadets could encounter in the field. During last week’s lab exercise, Hailey Hager acted as the lead of her group. In the exercise she had to speak to another leader who – because of his region – does not interact with women. When the lead from the other group declined to talk to her, she told him: “I respect your culture please respect mine.” That defused the situation.

She learned these techniques from the ROTC class where she learned cultural awareness and was educated on the cultures and customs of other regions.

“Our job is to prepare them for those military scenarios that life here might not replicate,” Buckner said. “We help stimulate, visualize and talk to them about it, so when they are out there it is not a shock because they have been prepared.”

Among all of the opportunities to further their career and become an officer in the Army, ROTC students can qualify for a scholarship and have their college tuition paid for. If students pledge to commissioning and meeting the requirements, they can get a stipend that will help them afford the things they will need through college, Buckner said.

Ruiz was one of the students who was struggling financially. When she enrolled into the program her determination and commitment to the military resulted in Ruiz losing all support from her parents.

“I talked to the cadre [ROTC leadership] about what help I could get because I wasn’t getting any help from my parents … they had basically shunned me for my decision, and they told me I was a perfect candidate for the Army ROTC scholarship,” Ruiz said.

The last day of the semester, she was told she received the scholarship. After evaluating her home life and seeing that she couldn’t change her situation, she decided to change her environment and moved out. Through the years Ruiz has not only found a rock to lean on within the cadre, but a family.

“I have gone through so much during this three-year span that I have grown as a person, and I have had to learn the hard way. I’ve had to mature very quickly in order to make sure that I am living. But I can definitely say that Army ROTC has become my second family. We are there for each other. We care for each other, and we are willing to die for one another,” Ruiz said.

“Our work – what we do – and all the time that we commit – speaks tremendously of us, and I am so proud to be a member of the Army ROTC.”

Army ROTC Cadets listen to the directions before they begin lab course Nov. 2, 2016.

Before the sun is up, the Army ROTC cadets conclude the hour-long training session with stretches Nov. 1, 2016.

Cadet Clark writes notes as the Army ROTC platoon leader gives the team directions about the days Key Leader Engagement training, Nov. 2, 2016.

Army ROTC cadets sit in a circle during Key Leader Engagement training as they observe the group acting out possible real-life scenarios in the middle, Nov. 2, 2016.

Army ROTC cadets salute as the United States flag is taken down Nov. 2, 2016.

Army ROTC cadets stand at attention after their weekly lab class as their peer makes announcements in preparation for the weekend’s events on Wednesday, Nov. 2, 2016.

Lt. Carder and Lt. Mosqueda wave as they are about to cross the finish line completing a 13.1-mile ruck march. Both lieutenants are Fresno State Army ROTC alumni who have come back to the program as part of the Army ROTC leadership team. The two serve as mentors for the cadets who are enrolled in the program. As a part of community service the team participated in the Two Cities Marathon and a Half on Nov. 6, 2016.

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