By Contributing Editor Blair Drake
Through several projects, the Northwest Arkansas Chapter is supporting local ROTC cadets.
Two years ago, the chapter started a mentorship program with the Army and Air Force ROTC departments at the University of Arkansas. Chapter volunteers get selected by cadets as mentors based on career fields, experiences, and education. The mentors and cadets meet throughout the academic year to discuss topics such as military careers, leadership, and relationships with NCOs and enlisted servicemembers.
Col. Bob Crawford, USA (Ret), chapter president, said the chapter started the program for several reasons.
“We want to give the cadets the opportunity to learn from the experiences of the retired officers in our chapter … the peaks and valleys from their careers and give cadets a heads up about what they will be getting into,” he said. “The other reason is to give the cadets a safe place to go to ask questions that they might be embarrassed or concerned to ask their chain of command.”
Though the program was put on hold last year because of the pandemic, Crawford and other chapter members are volunteering to work with cadets during their final year of college as they prepare to become second lieutenants in the Army or Air Force.
The goal is for the relationship to last after the cadet has graduated and begins his or her military career.
In October 2021, members of the chapter had another opportunity to offer insight to and share experiences with local cadets through a career day hosted by the University of Arkansas Air Force ROTC department. Several members of the chapter attended and shared with cadets stories about their careers and unusual experiences, and answered questions. The Air Force cadets gained valuable tips about various career fields in the military. Active duty Air Force officers from Little Rock AFB in Arkansas and Tinker AFB in Oklahoma also participated.
“The event was an outstanding success,” said Crawford. “The ROTC cadets planned and coordinated the career day with precision and sophistication.
In addition, the chapter presents awards to cadets and participates in every commissioning ceremony by providing a copy of the Constitution, a MOAA certificate, and second lieutenant bars.
“Every chance I get, I tell the [ROTC] departments we’re here to assist any way we can,” Crawford said. “I am convinced we have the knowledge and the personal experiences that will be very helpful to the next generation of officers, and the more we can get involved and share that, the better prepared they will be to serve the country.”
Blair Drake is a contributing editor for MOAA and lives in Souderton, Pa. She previously served on the editorial team of Military Officer magazine for nine years.