Lackland Air Force Base, Texas –
With college tuition seemingly always increasing, many students are searching for alternatives to cut costs. One of those alternatives, joining the Air Force ROTC program, comes with many benefits besides a terrific academic education.
UTSA is a Hispanic-serving institution and because the Air Force is trying to increase diversity in the officer and enlisted corps, it has given UTSA's ROTC program unlimited scholarship funds to cadets who join.
The annual scholarship offers $15,000 for tuition and fees, in addition to $750 a year for books and a monthly allowance of $250 to $400 for additional expenses. The scholarship however, does not include room and board.
A cadet does not need to be Hispanic to obtain one of these scholarships; however, the Air Force has succeeded in reaching its target group as women, Hispanics, and blacks make up 60-65 percent of UTSA's ROTC members.
The Air Force's interest in diversity does not stop at cultural differences; it is also interested in increasing the diversity in the academic backgrounds of its officers. Because of that interest, students can choose from any major to satisfy the academic requirements necessary to graduate college and thus become an officer.
"The Air Force needs diversity so it doesn't matter to us if you are a history major or anything else," said Maj. Sean Bailey.
Major Bailey, the unit admissions officer for UTSA, graduated from high school in 1987 and immediately enlisted in the military. It was much later however, when Major Bailey became a product of the Reserve Officers' Training Corps.
"I would see officers walking around and I was in awe of them," Major Bailey said. "I never saw myself as an officer."
He was an enlisted Airman stationed in New Hampshire performing aeronautical duties for the Air Force when he was forced to take a philosophy course by his supervisor.
"I really liked it, so I just kept on taking courses here and there," Major Bailey said.
After seven years of service, he was thinking about separating from the military when another supervisor encouraged him to enter the ROTC program to become a commissioned officer. He earned his degree from Southwest Texas University.
"Honestly, to this day I ask myself how all of this happened," Major Bailey said. "Someone saw something in me that I didn't see in myself and they pushed me in the right direction. And that's what I hope to do for other individuals with the ROTC program, just push them in the right direction."
The starting pay for a newly commissioned second lieutenant is approximately $45,000, giving extra incentive for cadets to join.
"We commissioned 21 new lieutenants in fiscal year 2006 and of those 21, four of them received pilot slots," Major Bailey said.
University of Texas at San Antonio has the second largest Air Force ROTC detachment in the state of Texas after Texas A&M University (College Station). The ROTC program at UTSA is currently hovering around 180 cadets. Major Bailey would like to see those numbers increase.
"I would like to see our numbers hit 200," Major Bailey said. "And I don't think we have enough prior service contingents as I think we should have."
Students attending any other college or university in San Antonio can also apply to the ROTC program at UTSA for a scholarship and officer commission.
An enlisted member of the Air Force can also join the ROTC program if he or she wishes to become an officer as long as they were honorably discharged.
Major Bailey convinced a former colleague in the 319th Training Squadron who had always wanted to be an officer to join.
"I hope some senior airmen hear about this program and think you know what? I can do that," Major Bailey said.