MACDILL AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. --
It takes great personal dedication, drive and discipline to succeed in the Air Force Reserve Officer Training Corps program, but some Airmen aren't aware of how to take the first step.
U.S. Air Force Capt. David DeLeon, an intelligence officer assigned to 6th Operation Support Squadron, took the initiative to educate interested Airmen on commissioning opportunities and offer his experiences as a University of South Florida DET-158 ROTC alumni.
On Sept. 20, 2018, DeLeon escorted ten Airmen from the 6th OSS to the USF DET-158 in Tampa to receive a tour and immerse into an official ROTC program.
“A great leader once said, 'investing in the betterment of others pays huge dividends in both personal and professional growth,'” said DeLeon. “Someone once invested in me, empowering me to become a commissioned officer and for that reason, I feel a deep obligation to give back to our exceptional Airmen.”
DeLeon originally enlisted in the Air Force, starting as an Airman Basic, and like many other junior enlisted Airmen, he dedicated himself to his work, which caught the attention of his command chief.
“When I was a Senior Airman at Columbus Air Force Base, Mississippi, my command chief noticed my work ethic while visiting my duty section and asked if I would be interested in the ROTC program,” recalled DeLeon.
This experience forever changed DeLeon’s life, and compels him to pay it forward.
“I remember after I toured a ROTC program at a college campus, I was determined to become a commissioned officer and nothing was going to stop me,” said DeLeon. “It was such a powerful experience and I hope this tour can ignite a similar flame in MacDill's young Airmen”
Sept. 20 marks Deleon’s first ROTC program tour and he hopes to expand his program to the entire 6th Air Mobility Wing.
“Before, I thought the ROTC program was out of reach, but I didn’t really know much about it,” said Senior Airman Ethan Sheptow, a weather forecaster assigned to the 6th OSS. “But after today’s USF tour with Capt. DeLeon and speaking with other cadets, I feel like the ROTC program is very achievable.”
In the ROTC program, cadets learn some of the basics, like how to lead teams, follow and communicate instructions throughout the chain of command, march in detail formations, as well as military customs and courtesies.
“What I like most about the ROTC program is the friendships I have made; we’ve all been through so much together,” said Cadet Lt. Col. Madison Etherton, the deputy operations ground commander for DET-158 at USF. “From watching friends drop out to going to PT and experiencing field training together, it has just been a crazy ride, and it has helped us grow so much closer.”
While networking is important, the values learned are crucial to an officer’s success in the military, and this is what DeLeon and Etherton want to share with other Airmen.
“We’ve seen each other at our worst and that has helped us learn how to bring each other back up,” said Etherton. “It feels like being a part of a family and when I become an officer, I plan on making sure the Airmen around me are always in a position to succeed.”
To Etherton, knowledge is key.
“The first step is having Airmen look into the ROTC program like they did today,” said DeLeon.
USF is one of more than 1,100 colleges nationwide offering an ROTC program, and applicants should visit a few university ROTC programs to see which one fits them best and then apply individually to the university and the ROTC program.
“The Air Force provided me all the tools I needed to succeed, including basic allowance for housing and tuition assistance to complete my degree,” said DeLeon. “I will be continuing these tours to help educate Airmen and if it inspires just one exceptional Airman to commission, then it will be worth the effort.”
To learn more about the ROTC program, please visit https://www.afrotc.com/ or call 866-423-7682.