Students in Training

By Jordan Unger

It’s no question that all college students face stress from time to time due to balancing school work, jobs and other obligations. Students participating in the Army ROTC on campus and Air Force ROTC at Kent State University are no exception.

The Reserve Officers’ Training Corps are programs offered to Youngstown State University students to learn leadership skills and become commissioned officers in the U.S. Army or U.S. Air Force. Army ROTC is offered at YSU and Air Force ROTC is offered at KSU.

ROTC and AFROTC are four year programs with approximately 22 credit hours. Amanda Scott, a flight commander in the AFROTC, said the first two years revolve around learning the basics of the Air Force.

“It’s learning military courtesies and just trying to get you used to the language and the culture of it,” Scott said.

The Air Force program varies from physical training to aerospace courses and hands-on activities. Ryan Slavic, Leadership Deputy Flight Commander, said cadets are also required to take leadership lab courses every semester.

“A lot of our focus this semester in leadership is drill,” Slavic said. “We’re also focusing on getting our second-year cadets ready to go to field training, so a lot of what we’re focusing on this semester is customs and courtesies related to field training.”

Army ROTC students also take leadership lab, as well as military science courses. Zachary Szewczyk, a cadet in the Army ROTC at YSU, said all cadets participate in the 90-minute labs each week.

“We do practical, hands-on exercises where we apply the skills and lessons we learn in the Military Science classes, in as realistic a training environment as possible,” Szewczyk said.

Slavic said the AFROTC program offers nonstandard leadership labs, which include water survival training and visiting military bases.

“It’s not like the normal military training,” Slavic said. “It’s not guaranteed what we’ll do each semester, but we always try to switch it up and get a well-rounded experience with what time we have.”

Nicholas Matsukas, an AFROTC cadet, said the nonstandard leadership lab activities were unexpected.

“We went to Akron State University and used their pool to practice water survival techniques while still in our airman battle uniforms,” Matsukas said.

As students progress through the program, they acquire more responsibilities. Scott is entitled to be in charge of a group of Army and Air Force cadets this year, which she has enjoyed so far.

“I love it,” Scott said. “So far this has been my favorite year because I love being in charge of cadets and being able to help them through, whether it’s school issues or ROTC issues. It’s a great opportunity to help them grow.”

The amount of time dedicated to ROTC also depends on how far a student is in the program. Daniel Rivera, vice wing commander in the AFROTC, said cadets start with at least four or five hours of dedication and progressively increase.

“I’m devoting [what] I would guess around 15 hours a week just coordinating, planning and different things at a different level of leadership,” Rivera said.

Air Force students must commute to Kent State each week for AFROTC. Rivera said balancing schoolwork and training can be difficult.

“It used to be really difficult,” Rivera said. “If you’re not good with prioritizing, if you’re not good with time management … it’s really rough.”

Szewczyk said this is one of the greatest challenges for him.

“In ROTC, school always comes first,” Szewczyk said. “In practice, though, it’s a much more difficult balance when your peers are counting on you. It’s tough to prioritize school in situations like that.”

Time management is one of the key factors to keep in mind as a new cadet, Scott said.

“Learn to balance between social life, school life, work life and be able to also get out and exercise not only for your physical wellbeing but also just getting rid of stress and helping you cope with things,” Scott said.

Keeping a weekly schedule helps keep everything on track while balancing obligations, Rivera said.

“It takes the pressure off your mind and makes things more manageable,” Rivera said.

It is important to keep your ears open and learn everything that you can when starting out, Rivera said.

“It’s going to be a challenge for somebody who’s thinking about joining, but it’s greatly beneficial if you go with the right mentality,” Rivera said.