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News | May 15, 2014

Commissioning opportunities available at UAA for Airmen

By David Bedard JBER Public Affairs

For Air Force 2nd Lt. Emily Schultz, commissioning this year as an Air Force officer culminated an 11-year journey from being a raw recruit at Royal Air Force Lakenheath, England, to an Air Force ROTC cadet at the University of Alaska Anchorage, with stops at Korea and Eielson Air Force Base in between.

For UAA AFROTC sophomore Cadet Jonathan Capua, his journey from the Philippines to the Air Force Reserve to quite possibly commissioning in 2016 is just building steam.
Both are prior-enlisted Airmen who did their research and decided to take advantage of opportunities to earn a commission at the Anchorage campus.

"This program is really top notch," Schultz said. "I didn't have to restrict myself to Alaska. I could have [attended college] anywhere in the nation. I did my homework, and I knew this detachment had a really good reputation."

Capua, an Air Force Reserve senior airman with the 477th Fighter Group, said he got hooked on the Air Force lifestyle when he attended Air Force Junior ROTC at Anchorage's West High School. He said the program at UAA AFROTC was a perfect fit for him to transition to an active-duty officer.

"Ever since JROTC, I have liked the military lifestyle," Capua said. "Everything [this program does] is in line with the Air Force core values."

Aim high
For active-duty enlisted Airmen, there are several avenues for earning a commission through ROTC.

According to the AFROTC website, the Airman Scholarship and Commissioning Program, and Scholarships for Outstanding Airman to ROTC allow selected Airmen to separate from active duty and complete all of their commissioning requirements in two to four years depending upon college coursework completed. Eligible Airmen can earn a scholarship of up to $18,000 per year, an annual textbook allowance of $900 and a monthly nontaxable stipend of $250 to $400. The only difference between SOAR and ASCP is SOAR requires a wing commander's recommendation.

The Professional Officer Course-Early Release Program allows selected Airmen to separate from active duty and complete all of their commissioning requirements in two years. Candidates must have two years of coursework completed toward an approved degree. Eligible Airmen get an annual textbook allowance of $900 and a monthly nontaxable stipend of $250 to $400.

The Post 9/11 GI Bill can be used in conjunction with any of the options.

A family first
Schultz said she decided on the ASCP route, following a long series of choices that started with her decision to be the first of her family in living memory to join the military.
Though initially assigned to Malmstrom Air Force Base, Mont., as a bioenvironmental engineer, Schultz said she signed up as a "Code 88" worldwide volunteer. Months later, the Fence, Wis., native was assigned to RAF Lakentheath for three years before accepting an assignment to Kunsan Air Base, Republic of Korea.

Schultz said she fought for the Korea assignment, because she knew the Air Force there hosted frequent drills in preparation for combat, and she figured the experience would make her a stronger Airman.

A few months after reporting to Kunsan, Schultz said base leadership selected and assigned her as the executive assistant to the 8th Wing command chief master sergeant.
"It was a great experience because up until that point, I feel I didn't really have the big picture of the mission and of the base," she said. "It helped me in my journey, because I had been thinking about commissioning, and that experience helped me realize it was something I really wanted."

Though she had seriously considered pursuing a commission while she was at RAF Lakenheath, Schultz said she was deterred by the possibility she wouldn't be able to stay in her career field.

"You have to decide you want to be an officer first," Schultz said of her change of heart. "You're an officer first and then there's your [career field]. I wasn't going to be unhappy being put into another career field, because the big picture is in the Air Force everyone has an important job to do as part of the mission."

Her renewed vision for her career would begin to bear fruit upon reassignment to Eielson Air Force Base. Reporting to the Alaska Interior base Dec. 23, 2008, Schultz was immediately confronted by 40-below-zero temperatures. She was also embraced by a chain of command willing to help her achieve her goals and give her the time she needed to complete the necessary forms.

"The package is a lot of work," Schultz recalled. "I think people get discouraged putting it in because of the amount of work, but it's definitely worth it. Not a whole lot of people do it, and there's a good chance of getting selected if you get your stuff turned in."

The Air Force selected Schultz as a space and missile operations officer. Capua said he would like to commission as a civil engineer or intelligence officer.

Going for the gold bar
Capua emigrated from Patayak, Santa Barbara, Pagasanan, Philippines, when he was 10 years old. He graduated high school his junior year, joined the Air Force Reserve, and was placed on active-duty orders for a year with 773d Civil Engineer Squadron. Once his active tour was over, he enrolled at UAA and joined the AFROTC program.

Capua said he is using his Reserve educational benefits to pay for college, and he has decided to continue with 477th FG, where he serves as a water and fuels systems maintenance technician, during his studies.

"For me, it's beneficial to stay with the Reserve and use the Post 9/11 GI Bill," he said. "I get more pay and benefits."

This summer, Capua will attend four weeks of Field Training at Maxwell Air Force Base, Ala., where he will compete for a commissioning slot. Having been through the experience herself, Schultz said Capua will need to lean on his training to be successful.

"When you go to ROTC Field Training, you're not being taught anything," she said. "It's purely an evaluation of what you're already supposed to know and an assessment of your leadership ability."

If successful, Capua will sign an Inactive Ready Reserve contract, committing him to complete the commissioning requirements and ensuring the Air Force has a job waiting for him as a second lieutenant.

Enlisted pride
Both cadets said they feel their enlisted experience will be a valued asset during their officer careers.

"Never forget where you cam from," Schultz advised enlisted Airmen seeking a commission. "I really enjoyed my enlisted time. I'm proud of it. If I had to do the whole thing over again, I would do the same thing."

The newly commissioned lieutenant further advised candidates to check their motives.
"Decide if it's what you really want to do and think about the reasons why you're doing it," Schultz said. "It's a great opportunity to pay for school, but you have to be ready to take on the increased responsibility."

For more information about AFROTC, call UAA Detachment 001 at 786-7265 or visit www.afrotc.com.