“Being in the military, it’s something special … you’re serving something bigger than yourself.”
–Danny Liebman, N.C. State Air Force ROTC cadet
by Mimi Montgomery
photograph by Christer Berg
College students are busy. But college students in the Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) program, like N.C. State’s Tyrique Harris, Danny Liebman, and Jake Page (pictured from left) juggle more, and do it with purpose.
These three Air Force cadets, like their peers in the Army and Navy ROTC programs, are preparing to become commissioned as military officers even as they shoulder a full course-load. Page, a senior aerospace engineering major, always wanted to fly, and knew the military was a good avenue to become a pilot. He says he can’t imagine doing anything else. “I’m totally sold on what the Air Force does and the whole mission,” he says. “I like the atmosphere, the people – everything about it, really.”
Harris, a junior economics major, agrees. “When I got accepted to N.C. State, I wanted to do something else because I can’t just go to class … something that I can sink my teeth into.”
ROTC requires that kind of commitment. Students are up at 6 a.m. several times a week for physical training; they take ROTC academic classes and leadership labs that include field training and drills. They’re taught the skills they’ll need to succeed in the military, and everyone in the program has a position: Harris is a public affairs officer, sharing the Air Force’s mission via videos, social media, and a website. Liebman, a junior civil engineering major, is a Flight Commander mentoring 12 freshman Air Force cadets, with whose progess he monitors weekly. Page, the Wing Commander, serves as liaison between officers and the cadets, and spends time in strategic planning meetings.
“Time’s critical,” he says. “It’s rough sometimes, but you just get better at managing your time. I would take any cadet out of the Wing and put him next to an average college student, and I think they would way outperform them in the area of time management.”
This month, the cadets are busy hosting a Veterans Day ceremony and run. Their 5K race takes place early in the morning on Nov. 11, and is followed by a ceremony honoring veterans. Prior to the race, Air Force cadets guard the N.C. State bell tower throughout the night in shifts. Standing at attention for an hour in the middle of the night provides some “good thinking time,” says Liebman, laughing; it’s also a testament to the commitment ROTC students are making here in Raleigh.
Race: Nov. 11; 5:45 a.m.; N.C. State Memorial Bell Tower; ceremony to follow