University of Portland photo
Air Force ROTC cadets salute during an inspection at the University of Portland.
University of Portland photo
Air Force ROTC cadets salute during an inspection at the University of Portland.
In the basement of a dormitory on the University of Portland campus, a student stands at ease before the desk of an Air Force major. She's come to fill out a form and get his signature.

A few nights back, she was a minute late getting back to her residence hall before curfew. Paperwork is required to ameliorate the situation.  

Such are the demands of the 100 Air Force Reserve Officer Training Corps cadets at UP. They are both college students and members of Detachment 695. Both institutions have high demands.

"Leadership is the bedrock of what we are trying to teach," says Cpt. Stephan Cummings, a recruiter for the detachment.

The Air Force ROTC program trains men and women to become Air Force officers while they complete bachelor's or master's degrees. Some ROTC cadets receive scholarships for school. If they finish, they graduate with a diploma and a commission as a second lieutenant.   

UP's Air Force ROTC began 60 years ago in the midst of the Korean War. It's one of the longest-running programs on campus. Each year, despite being at a relatively small school, it produces one of the largest batches of officers in the nation. The Detachment recently won a national Air Force award for excellence.

Air Force ROTC is like a club, a sport and a leadership training course rolled into one. Cadets become friends, in part through the rigor of required early morning workouts and challenging classes in military history, officer duties, tactics and national security.  

Freshmen and sophomores attend a one-hour class each week. Junior and seniors take a three-hour weekly class and a five-week field training.

"Cadets are different than other students here," explains Cummings, sitting behind a finely ordered desk in the dorm basement. "It take a lot more time and organization."

Each semester, cadets also go to a leadership lab. Older students are put in charge of certain functions of the detachment. The highest ranking student — established through competition — becomes "Cadet Wing Commander" and is responsible activities that semester.

"We allow them to make mistakes — as long as no one gets hurt or it doesn't any money — and then we ask, 'What did you learn from this?'"

Good leaders, Cummings says, inspire people, stay focused on mission, act with empathy and make things happen. Air Force officers at the detachment spend a lot of time teaching the importance of relationships — with peers, superiors, subordinates and the public.

"We want them to know they can make a difference," says Cummings.

The Air Force takes the training seriously. Some day, these students may be in charge of nuclear missiles or other advanced weapons.

Some cadets who get commissioned take posts in space operations, engineering, medicine, nursing, human resources and finance. Those who win out in a competition have a chance for pilot training.  

Cummings describes UP as "very friendly" to ROTC. He knows that detachments would not work at some other schools in Oregon. Students at other local colleges who want to join Air Force ROTC come to UP for training and classes.

"AFROTC cadets have epitomized the university's mission of teaching, faith and service for more than 50 years by personifying the highest standards of integrity, leadership, professionalism and community service," says Holy Cross Father William Beauchamp, president of the University of Portland.