RANDOLPH AIR FORCE BASE, Texas –
Randolph is well-known for housing high-profile mission partners such as the Air Force Manpower Agency, Air Force Personnel Center and Air Force Recruiting Service.
But it is also home to less-publicized associate units, including one that provides administrative support for all Air Force Reserve Officer Training Corps detachments on college and university campuses in the southern United States from Mississippi to Hawaii.
The AFROTC Southwest Region headquarters, housed in a building that faces the west side of Washington Circle, is the administrative arm of the 36 detachments that make up the region.
"Our job is to ensure the detachments have the tools and support to do their jobs," said Lt. Col. Ray Bowen, Southwest Region deputy commander.
The staff of three officers, two senior noncommissioned officers and one civilian performs a variety of functions.
"We process both officer and enlisted performance reports for just over 200 individuals as well as all decorations and awards for all cadre members at our 36 detachments," he said. "We're also involved with the selection process for many cadet awards, to include some scholarships."
Training oversight and tracking of expenditures are other responsibilities.
"We provide training and compliance oversight for each detachment, primarily through staff assist visits," Colonel Bowen said. "The region is also involved with the coordination of summer training for the cadets, including field training and professional development training."
Col. Kevin Martin, Southwest Region commander, said he spends much of his time on the road, visiting detachments and meeting with the officers and NCOs who serve as instructors and with campus leadership and students.
"I take care of the cadre and make sure things are going correctly," he said. "If there's an issue that needs to be taken care of, I address that."
Air Force ROTC, with headquarters at Maxwell Air Force Base, Ala., is part of the Air Force Officer Accession and Training Schools organization, which also includes Air Force Junior ROTC and Officer Training School. Colonel Martin said between 40 and 50 percent of Air Force officers are commissioned through the ROTC program.
AFROTC detachments are located on 144 college and university campuses in all four regions, with 984 additional schools participating in cross-town agreements that allow their students to attend AFROTC classes at an area host school, according to the AFOATS fact sheet.
"We want to create about 2,000 lieutenants a year (in all four regions), so we have to bring in about four times that amount at the start," Colonel Martin said.
Students take one three-hour ROTC course, which includes a lab, each semester and finish their college education with 24 credit hours in ROTC as well as field training. Freshmen and sophomores take general military training while juniors and seniors take the professional officers' course. A field training exercise at Maxwell AFB occurs between the sophomore and junior years.
The instructors, who are part of the university faculty, are assistant professors of aerospace science, while the detachment commander is considered a full professor of aerospace science.
Colonel Martin said ROTC instruction is not a career field. The instructors "come out of their career field for career broadening," but they must be certified by the Air Force as academic instructors and the position usually requires a master's degree.
Colonel Martin believes AFROTC gives students a solid preparation for Air Force leadership positions.
"These students get the college experience and they're also part of a group where they get the opportunity to follow, then lead," he said.
Colonel Martin said the program provides the Air Force with a diverse officer corps.
"As an officer corps, we want to look like the nation," he said. "We want kids with varying backgrounds. That diversity creates a stronger military."