Officers from USAFA and AFROTC

Discussion in 'Air Force Academy - USAFA' started by MO2, Aug 24, 2013.

  1. MO2

    MO2 Member

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    My friend has a son in college on an AFROTC scholarship.
    I have a cadet at USAFA.

    Because she has a close relative who is a recent USAFA grad, my friend knows well the demands placed on USAFA cadets. She recently talked about how much easier it will be for her son in AFROTC.

    While their experiences are very different, both USAFA and AFROTC grads end up as officers with the same rank, the same pay, and the same opportunities within the US Air Force.

    Her question to me, "Why would someone pursue the route that is more challenging if the end result is the same?”

    I would love to hear from those who have experienced life in the US Air Force. What are the pros and cons for each path--AFROTC and USAFA?

    I don't want to start a battle. I would really like some concrete examples based on personal experience.

    Thank you.
     
  2. flieger83

    flieger83 Super Moderator Moderator

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    Okay...I'll start this along. Mind you, this is 100% based upon MY experiences and no others. EVERYONE will have different experiences.

    I had the choice of ROTC scholarships to AF and USN, as well as appointments to USMA, USNA, and USAFA. I eventually chose USAFA. I'm not bragging; the first year I tried, I received "sorry..." letters from everyone. A year at prep school changed all that.

    Upon graduation and then after 30 years in service...a few observations.

    USAFA Grad's
    - Tend to be socially behind their peers upon graduation, they've been isolated much more than their peers in college
    - Tend to think they're better than all others in uniform of the same grade because they went "to USAFA/THE Academy/The Zoo..."
    - Tend to have a much better "knowledge of how to do or avoid" work in the USAF as they've been in a 100% AF leadership laboratory and have had the opportunities to go around the AF, use the processes, etc.
    - Have a VERY tight bond with their classmates and ALL other grads because of the real or perceived shared experiences
    - Tend to be less than brilliant when they're off duty; they're experiencing all those wonderful freedoms that they missed while at USAFA
    - Tend to think that ring on their finger marks them as special

    ROTC Grad's
    - Tend to be MUCH more focused upon single goals at a single time: they're typically concerned that "it's me or an Academy person..."
    - Tend to be much more socially oriented and easier, initially, to deal with in a social situation on base or off
    - Tend to NOT be so much "in the know" of AF "in's and outs" as they've been in a college setting, and not as "AF intense"
    - Tend to do JUST AS WELL in EVERYTHING that USAFA grads are involved in

    Okay...now that you've all read the above and the ROTC guys/gals are starting to hate Flieger83, and the Grads are joining in....here's what I REALLY have to say.

    The only real difference I saw both as a junior and senior officer when observing USAFA and ROTC graduate lieutenants is this: some are good, some are great, and some are wanting. The commission source meant NOTHING to me as a commander; officership meant everything!

    The source of commission is as unique to the officer as is their performance. I know academy graduates that are in Fort Leavenworth as inmates, I know ROTC/OTS graduates who have or are wearing multiple stars upon their shoulders. It's how they perform as officers that matters, not their commission source.

    In the end, it's up to the individual to determine where they think THEY will grow best, what avenue will make them the best junior officer they can be, and then work their hardest to be accepted to that program. And then excel!

    For me...that meant USAFA. I knew I needed a challenge that would make certain I stayed focused, didn't stray from my end goal...I was concerned I would do just that if I went to my family's Alma Mater, the U of Florida!

    Just my opinion here...

    Steve
    USAFA ALO
    USAFA '83
     
  3. aseanag

    aseanag Eagle2013

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    You may want to ask this question with your local parents group, during parents weekend and/or many of the administrators at the academy. In fear of starting an all out war this may not be the best place for a candid answer. The one thing I will say is that there is plenty of fun that cadets experience at USAFA and there is plenty of stress students experience at civilian universities.
     
  4. Christcorp

    Christcorp Member

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    Why would someone choose active duty over the guard or reserves? Believe it or not, there's a lot of academy applicants who don't also apply for ROTC. When asked why,many of them had the same reason I went active duty and not guard. They wanted to be in the military 100%. Nothing against the guard, reserves, or ROTC. But some people simply don't like the idea of being in the military "part time".

    As for advantages of the academy over ROTC, the main difference is pilot opportunities. In ROTC, if you're one of the best, you can get a pilot slot. In the academy, if you qualify physically, you're pretty much guaranteed the opportunity. Or at least and extremely much higher probability.
     
  5. Bullet

    Bullet Member

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    ROTC grad here.

    Everything Steve (Flieger) said. Lots of little differences those first few years. But by the second year of your first Ops tour, none of them make a hill of beans to most of your peers. LOTS of friendly ribbing and joshing with each other about where everyone went to school. But besides that? It becomes just "where did you go to school? Oh, really? I never took you for a Zoomie...."

    But that is beside the point to the OP's original question on advantages or disadvantages of each. CC points out a very glaring one right off the bat -- pilot slot opportunities. Getting paid to go to college versus having to secure the money someone else is also nice. Some THRIVE and WANT that "leadership lab" experience from day one and over their entire college career. Some (myself included) wanted a "College" experience, with just a tad more freedom at ages 18-22. Some great professors at USAFA, and fantastic facilities. Me? Some of my aerospace engineering classes were taught by the guy who WROTE the textbook that they used at the USAFA, in some of the labs used by NASA. Location can actually be an influence for some.

    And frankly, some of us just aren't those "high school superstars" that would get into the Academy, and will have to go a different route. I am sure there are lots of folks on here who see some of the other kids posting their stats in the never ending "what are my chances" threads and think to themselves "How can I / My DS/ DD compete against THAT?" Nothing wrong with being the "slightly above average" student at age 16-17, or not having the discipline and drive at that age needed to do all the sports, ECs, and studying needed to be competitive for a Academy slot, and having to go to State U instead. They call a State U grad "Lt", just like they call the Academy grad. I was the poster boy for this situation. Seemed to work out OK for me in the end (though there is a small part of me that asks "What if", and thinks I would have thrived and achieved better grades in College in the Academy atmosphere. But, also frankly, if you don't have that discipline at 16 in the first place, you won't get in the Academy to learn it there anyway. I had to learn my discipline at a State U.)

    In the end, all things being equal between the student applying (i.e. he/she can get into either), it ultimately comes down to personal choices and desires. The pros and cons for each are many, but a "Pro" for some" is a "con" for others, and visa versa. Take pride in either choice works best for you, and always remember "It isn't how you start the race, it's how you finish it."
     
  6. Navypops

    Navypops Parent

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    Fantastic advice and powerful, experienced information. My son is re-applying to the academies. He is in ROTC at an excellent school, but wants one more shot. I don't have the academy or military experience you have, but I do have the wisdom that has come from many years of making correct and incorrect choices. Young people often have an image of the academies that is based on movies, hearsay, or fantasy. It is important to look at the bigger picture (the officership in this case), the objective (to learn, grow, improve in their course of study), and the people around them NOW (the real people surrounding them where they are today). ROTC or Academy, as you state, doesn't make the person. Character, drive, and leadership can grow anywhere. An "elite" location doesn't develop these virtues. Propagation of these virtues create an "elite" location no matter where it is. Thanks for your post.
     
  7. MN-Dad-2016

    MN-Dad-2016 Member

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    By son went the academy route because he wanted to do something radically different than the traditional college experience. He saw videos of the "Wings of Blue" http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I0K5b5TtS7w and he dreamed of that experience. He also liked all of the learning opportunities like possibly studying abroad in his language of choice (no cost), the scholars program which is arguably one of the best programs to stretch yourself academically, the super small class sizes that are NOT taught by teachers assistants, getting paid to go to college, mountains to ski,etc.

    He didn't chose USAFA necessarily to fly. But he wanted to keep his doors open.

    So to your question "Why would someone pursue the route that is more challenging if the end result is the same?" Because they are radically different experiences and some people want to be part of the long blue line. :)
     
  8. Buckeye

    Buckeye Member

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  9. MO2

    MO2 Member

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    I can't tell you how much I appreciate all of these thoughtful replies.

    I am sure there are other perspectives/points of view out there, but I am beginning to understand these decisions and this journey in a very new way.

    I am forever grateful for this forum and for the many individuals who take the time to share!
     
  10. EagleDriver

    EagleDriver Member

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    I agree with Flieger83...as a BYU ROTC grad my first initial exposure to USAFA grads were mixed starting from UPT. The majority of USAFA grads were "confident" in their outlook. I didn't mind the "looked down upon" if you will by some of the USAFA grads during UPT. It only fueled my desire to be in the top of my class :shake:. I can tell you their confidence was humbled quickly when we got to the T-38 phase of training...everyone was on equal grounds mentally regarding pilot training by then.:thumb: All in all...its how you are as an Officer....how you treat people and yet earn the respect as a young Officer and as a Senior Officer later on.
    I was getting some flack from DS about how it was easy for me as a ROTC grad during his C4C yr..:rolleyes: He had a choice also of going to BYU after he returned from his LDS church mission. But he chose to reapplying back to USAFA " original class of 2013" and is now a C2C "Class of 2015". But he is seeing the value of being a people person in every aspect after being a LDS Missionary for 2 years. He thought being a C4C was hard...being a Mormon Missionary in a foreign country was harder and he wouldn't trade that experience for anything.
    Sorry for the rambling...my advice to him and anyone whether military or civilian: KNOW your JOb WELL...DO your JOB WELL...BE HUMBLE...BE KIND...TREAT PEOPLE with RESPECT and DIGNITY.
    Go Air Force...beat Army AND Navy...don't pound Colgate too hard...see you all at the game this Saturday....Alooooohaaaaaa:smile:
     
  11. aseanag

    aseanag Eagle2013

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    I don't doubt there are USAFA alum that think they are superior but there are Junior officer that are commission from source other than USAFA that instantly judge USAFA alum as stuck up. I have talk with many USAFA grad that try and hide the fact that they attended USAFA because they are instantly judge and put into the they think they are better than everyone category. Heck I have been accused of thinking my DS was some how superior during the great flyover debate. I too agree just strive to be the best you can be and never judge anyone until you get to know them regardless of their commissioning source, university attended, etc.:smile:
     
  12. melindayching

    melindayching Member

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    My husband is a USAFA grad, and when my DD was faced with an appointment to USAFA or an full ROTC scholarship to Yale, he thought the choice was obvious...go to Yale! But she didn't, and while he didn't really understand her choice at the time for the reasons stated by the OP, he is so proud that she chose USAFA. My DD is more about the journey; she wasn't as concerned about where she'd end up as much as she wanted to really "live" the experience of getting there. She has already learned so much about herself -- pushed her limits beyond her own expectations. She has friends who are in ROTC programs at established schools, and while ROTC is no picnic by any means, they generally get to be regular college students most of the time. They describe ROTC as more of an extracurricular commitment. DD knew she wanted something different.
    I remind my husband that when he got out and entered the civilian workforce, the business world was fascinated by his experience at USAFA. CEOs assume hard work, strong ethics and commitment are part of the package when they hire a USAFA grad.
    It's an entirely personal choice, as many have said above.
     
  13. Christcorp

    Christcorp Member

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    Let me also give a perspective from that of an "Enlisted" person. Granted, I've been retired for 14 years, so I can't tell you if what I noticed is the same today. But among enlisted, it was pretty common while I was still on active duty.

    1. No matter who you are, and how you received your commission, ALL officers must PROVE THEMSELVES. Your RANK automatically receives our respect; but YOU must EARN our respect.
    2. In my time, enlisted tended to give more INITIAL respect and weight to an academy grad vs an ROTC grad. (Mind you, I capitalized the word INITIAL). This is because we do understand how difficult it is to get into the academy and we respect the 24/7 commitment endured during those 4 years. Especially from a nationally recognized university. ROTC depends a lot (INITIALLY) on WHERE you went to school, AND your MAJOR!!! Again, this is INITIAL. That first impression can be strengthened, improved, or shot to hell in the first 30 minutes; depending on the attitude of the officer. "Especially among Senior NCO's who are old enough almost to be your parent", and who have been around the block a couple of time.
    3. Younger airmen understand the rank structure as well, if not more, than the O-1 starting their first duty station. Many of these young airmen look up to the junior officer as a roll model and example of something they too can achieve if they want to. ESPECIALLY the ROTC grads; because many of these airmen have probably already passed the age and marital eligibility of going to the academy. So remember; as an officer, you're not "Just Leading"; you're also an EXAMPLE for many of the young airmen. MANY who are the SAME AGE AS YOU!!!
    4. Finally; while the enlisted does look more favorably on the academy grad, because we BOTH went through the same 24/7 military experience, and academy grads tend to start their career able to fall in line faster with rules and the process; (Having done a similar structure for 4 years); in the end, we ALL have a mission to accomplish. While the enlisted know that an officer is going to get a lot more pay and privileges than the enlisted, we also know that the officers need the enlisted, as much (Or more), as the enlisted needs the officers. So with that, we go back to point 1. RESPECT. Part of earning respect is GIVING respect. Academy grads and ROTC grads can DIS each other all you want. But take the attitude of being BETTER, and do that to the enlisted corp, and your career is in for one hell of a lot of turbulence. Especially if you act that way around an NCO.

    I will say that Pilots are definitely a different breed. They definitely work WITH a lot of enlisted. Especially crew chiefs, avionics, life support, etc... They understand who's got their LIVES in their hands. But pilots also don't do a lot of "Supervision and Management" of personnel. Not like a maintenance officer, logistics, etc... So I can honestly say, I haven't met a pilot I didn't like or get along with. Cocky??? Hell yea. But I WANT That. The military NEEDS that. (In a pilot). I have so many close personal friends or are/were air force pilots. If you come to thudgate, I'll introduce you to a LOT of them.

    Anyway; that's just my personal experience with both academy grads and ROTC. Initially, we might give a bit more of our respect to the academy grad INITIALLY. But that only lasts a very short time. How you act and how you prove yourself to us; along with how you treat the enlisted, and not as a lower species; will totally determine your success.
     
  14. thepalmers4

    thepalmers4 Member

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    If the SAs do not produce a significantly better product, what do we say to those who want to close them and have officer training done exclusively by ROTC programs?

    Many feel that the SAs are simply too expensive. Others feel they are bastions of old school elitism. These people are not without influence.
     
  15. LineInTheSand

    LineInTheSand USCGA 2006

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    A VERY good question that will likely generate some great debate. To be fair USCGA is WAY better than CG ROTC!!!
     
  16. recon4ds

    recon4ds Member

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    Hmmmm...

    Anyways, my DS chose USAFA because he is a "people person," often easily distracted, and he thought that he may lose his focus if he went ROTC. He does want to be a pilot, and that was also a primary decision point, as well as his desire to experience the constant militay discipline.
     
  17. aseanag

    aseanag Eagle2013

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    I say to these people, OCS can do it even cheaper. Do away with ROTC and AFA and increase OCS capacity to supply the officer corp.
     
  18. aseanag

    aseanag Eagle2013

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    Even Bangladesh has a military academies.

    Military academies around the world.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Military_academy
     
  19. falconfamily

    falconfamily Member

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    The service academies can also be seen as a repository for the professional military officer corps. Those "others" who are not without influence are also without majorities who support their view (for the economic impact of SA's, as well as their view about their importance to the nation). So the "influence" of those who would eliminate the SA's is limited by the lack of consensus. While there are certainly less expensive ways to commission officers, it should not be lost in the debate that upon balance the pluses outweigh the minuses with regard to the value of military academies.
     
  20. LineInTheSand

    LineInTheSand USCGA 2006

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    Or we can just say academies to it better, something I bet a number of people here believe, but are uncomfortable saying.
     

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