By the time ROTC cadets graduate and receive their commissions, they have had spent two years in leadership positions. “ROTC is all about leadership as an officer,” says Lt. Col. Jeremiah Klomp, current Air Force ROTC Detachment 505 commander. By the time ROTC cadets graduate and receive their commissions, they have spent two years in leadership positions. “Our cadets are not going to be turning wrenches, working on airplanes or things of that nature. Rather, they will be leading the troops who keep us safe.”
To embark on such an esteemed role, freshman cadets start out as learners, following orders and instructions, while sophomore cadets begin to take on instructing and mentoring roles. Between the sophomore and junior years, cadets attend field training, which prepares them for leadership roles in the cadet wing. Juniors and seniors are wing, group and squadron commanders. To adequately prepare the cadets, ROTC is made up of three things, Klomp says: academic classes, fitness training twice a week and leadership laboratory. Seniors are given the objectives of leadership lab and they devise a 15-week plan, which is approved and then implemented.
“Those who have served in the military often remark, ‘It’s a small Air Force,’ when they run into a former classmate somewhere in the world.”
–Retired Air Force Lt. Col. Steve Groll
ROTC on Campus
The NMSU community celebrated Founder’s Day and commemorated the 100th anniversary of Reserve Officer Training Corps this spring in Traders Plaza.
While ROTC was created with the passage of the National Defense Act in 1916, Army ROTC at NMSU is connected to the actual founding of the university. As a land-grant university, military training was required, making Army ROTC as old as NMSU.
“We at NMSU have actually had ROTC or its equivalent longer than ROTC has been in existence,” says Lt. Col. Jeremiah Klomp, commander and professor of aerospace studies for Air Force ROTC at NMSU. “ROTC, as an official program, didn’t start until 15 years after it started at NMSU.”
The Air Force ROTC program at NMSU also has a similar claim to fame. The Air Force itself was created on Sept. 18, 1947, but NMSU started an Air Force ROTC, Detachment 505, a year before that, on Oct. 2, 1946.
Lt. William “Fuzz” Thompson ’12 above, worked as a U.S. Air Force special operations liaison intelligence officer in Afghanistan. He struggled to mentally prepare for his overseas assignment – because it meant saying goodbye to his new wife, family and friends, as well as a comfortable lifestyle. “When I unexpectedly reunited with fellow Detachment 505 cadets downrange, I felt a renewed sense of comfort and was immediately reminded of home,” Thompson says.
“Aggies are all over the world protecting this country. When I arrived in Afghanistan the second time, I learned the squadron commander I would be working for was an NMSU graduate who commissioned 10 years before I did.”
–Capt. Seth Vincent ’08, Air Force intelligence officer and former Air Force ROTC
NMSU and Army ROTC welcome first Hispanic woman commander
When Lt. Col. Blanca Reyes was offered NMSU for her duty station as a new Army Reserve Officer Training Corps professor of military science, she knew immediately it was a good fit for her.
In her 21-year military career with the Army, Reyes was once stationed at Fort Bliss in El Paso, Texas, so she and her two young daughters were familiar with the Las Cruces community, and becoming a university professor represented a new career direction for Reyes – one she found exciting.
As the first Hispanic woman commander for Army ROTC at NMSU and a first-generation American, Reyes has a lot to offer a university with a more than 50 percent Hispanic population. “
“It was very important to me to be an example,” she says. “The Army has given me so much. They put me through school. They paid for my bachelor’s degree and two master’s degrees. Now it’s my turn to give back.”
Prior to her new assignment, Reyes served as a theatre security cooperation intelligence planner for U. S. Army North, a position that had her assisting Mexican Army officers enrolled in an English-language immersion program. Reyes was responsible for planning and coordinating military intelligence between the U. S. Army, Canadian Armed Forces and the Mexican Secretariat of National Defense.
Reyes began her Army career as a parachute rigger, which required being airborne qualified. Although Reyes doesn’t jump out of airplanes any more, she served in Baghdad during the Iraq War troop surge.
“I learned that I was a lot stronger than I expected,” she says.
The deployment earned her the Iraq Campaign Medal, the award she’s the proudest of among her dozen or so decorations, because it represents having a daily interaction with soldiers she was directly responsible for leading and ensuring their well-being and welfare.
One of the things Reyes wants to impress on cadets is that graduation with a bachelor’s degree is a key requirement to being commissioned, because while it’s important to be technically proficient at their job, they have a civic duty to be a part of the community.
“We, as an Army, can’t do everything alone,” she says. “You have to work with your community. They’re your partners. Here, the community and the alumni are so warm and welcoming.”