Since the founding of the Reserve Officer Training Corps in 1916, young men and women have learned discipline, leadership and confidence through rigorous military training and structure.
Jacob Gernert, a senior math major, was recently chosen as the cadet flight wing commander of the combined Air Force ROTC group. He is the first ORU student to be elected as commander.
Though ORU does not technically have its own ROTC chapter, members from the student body are able to join a sister-wing at OSU across town.
He makes the hour-long drive from Tulsa to the OSU campus twice a week to manage the group.
Gernert transferred to ORU last year, but has been in the ROTC program since his freshman year at Cedarville University in Ohio. When he graduates, he hopes to be an intelligence officer in the Air Force.
“I’m basically in charge of training, maintenance and logistics,” said Gernert. “The flight wing is run entirely by cadets.”
This means that responsibilities like the color guard and disciplinary issues, as well as the field training exercises for the freshmen and sophomores, fall to him.
Another senior, Alyssa Perez, is also part of ORU’s ROTC program. She is majoring in nursing and faces the unique problem of balancing one of ORU’s hardest academic programs and the strict ROTC lifestyle.
“I did have to do summer school to accomplish it all in four years,” said Perez.
She is the Cadet Lieutenant Colonel and oversees the mission support group.
“I’m responsible for special projects,” she said. “This includes commissioning for graduating seniors, as well as communicating between the Army and Air Force sides of the ROTC group.
“I also work on things like fundraising and recruiting,” said Perez.
The ROTC first appeared at ORU 26 years ago in 1987 but struggled for years due to lack of involvement from students.
The program saw a slight boost under the volunteer guidance of government professor Dr. Paul Vickery, who helped guide and grow the program for several years. Eventually though, membership trailed off again.
Perez and Gernert represent a shift towards growth in ORU’s ROTC program.
With ORU students slowly taking on more responsibility at the acros-town chapter, graduating seniors are excited to see what the freshman will bring to the group.
“There are four freshman from ORU this year,” said Gernert. “There are more cadets than ever before.”