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Air Force ROTC students put country first


Air Force ROTC student Jessica Brown.
In one of his better books, Gratitude, the late William F. Buckley Jr. argued that every American owed this nation some form of public service.

That very principle motivates the young men and women in Sacramento State’s Air Force ROTC program. The students of Detachment 088 are preparing to become junior officers in the U.S. Air Force on active duty assignments, ranging from four years to a possible career spanning two decades.

Maj. William Bones, who doubles as operations officer and commander, came to Sac State in spring 2008. He departs in September for Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado Springs, Colo., where he’s under consideration for an appointment at the Air Force Academy.

During his tour of duty at Sac State, the major has seen a steady improvement in recruits. He regrets not being around for the incoming students, whom he rates among the best he’s seen. “I wish we could offer all of them scholarships,” he says.

He is particularly proud of the detachment’s success rate in slotting pilot-trainee candidates. Students apply for these highly competitive slots in their junior year. All six of this year’s applicants were accepted by a review board at Maxwell Air Force Base, Ala. Last year’s acceptance rate was 95 percent, while each of the preceding class’s candidates were slotted at 100 percent for pilot selectee.

Ten of 11 applicants for flight training this year were successful. That speaks well for an AFROTC unit just 28 years old -- particularly when the national average is about 60 percent.

Bones notes that just two of the pilot trainees have failed to complete their course. One was disqualified because of colorblindness, while the other withdrew from the program.

Among the 16 to be commissioned this academic year as second lieutenants, Jessica Brown stands out. The Communications Studies major has landed a plum assignment as a spokeswoman for the fabled Thunderbirds precision flying unit stationed at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev. “That posting would normally go to someone with about eight years' experience," Bones notes with pride.

The new commander, who arrives in July, will take over a detachment that is on the rise. “We expect to be moving our operation to Yosemite Hall this summer,” Bones says. This will be a quantum improvement over the cramped quarters on the second floor of the Public Safety Building, where the unit shares space with the Army ROTC detachment.