Stephen Woodard ’70, who served as a captain in the U.S. Air Force, was a proud Air Force ROTC cadet as a student at Syracuse University from 1966-70. He earned a degree in English literature from the College of Arts…
ROTC Cadets Score Among Top-Ranked in the U.S. and Earn Prestigious Honors
One of the longest consecutive running programs of its kind in the country, Syracuse University’s Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) trains students to commission as officers in the Army and Air Force. Over the course of their training, cadets are accessed on a wide variety of metrics, including grade point average, physical fitness and leadership. Recently, cadets from both the Army and Air Force received their final assessments and national rankings. Several of the University’s Army and Air Force ROTC cadets received prestigious designations and were among the top-ranked cadets in the country.
Distinguished Military Graduates and Recondo Badge Earned
Army cadets attended advanced training camp over the summer, and eight were selected as distinguished military graduates, meaning they were assessed in the top 15% of all cadets nationwide, including active duty, national guard and reserves. They are Madeleine Gordon, Brian Bauer, Isabella Lee, Patrick Little, Jeffrey Estes, John Northrop, Lucas Marchi and Stanley Smudin.
Additionally, Gordon and Bauer were ranked in the top 10% of all active-duty cadets. “I think this speaks volumes to how well our program has prepared us to not only perform at camp and receive these evaluations, but further to have the ability to broaden and grow ourselves professionally in ROTC,” says Gordon. She says ROTC has given her room for academic and personal growth while providing opportunities and passionate involvement outside in the community.
Gordon says her experience with different languages and cultures as a double major in modern foreign languages (Arabic and Chinese) in the College of Arts and Sciences, with minors in linguistics and Middle Eastern studies, is a factor in her success. “Cultural understanding and competencies are aspects of leadership I feel don’t immediately come to mind, but are absolutely critical in your ability to support not only your soldiers, but also the mission set as we continue to engage in a diverse theater of operations.”
The success of the Army ROTC program is a testament to the examples of leadership they see in the instructors, known as cadre, in the program. Gordon says rather than simply memorizing doctrine, the program encourages cadets to learn how to think critically and take personal approaches to leadership. “We performed well because we all had adequate training and a good understanding of the material,” she says. “But further, we are enabled to have creative intuitions and take appropriate risk to challenge ourselves and grow as decisive leaders.”
The following cadets additionally earned the Reconnaissance Commando (Recondo) badge: Charles Ball, Michael Griffin, Patrick Little, Michael Lunny, Lucas Marchi, Alexander Morales, John Northrop, Hayden Smith (SUNY Oswego) and Ryan Snyder.
Cadets earning the Recondo badge met specific physical, intellectual and performance criteria, such as completing a six-mile march with a 35-pound rucksack in under 90 minutes; earning a first-time GO (pass) in all tested events and competencies, qualifying Sharpshooter or higher on the M4 range; and successfully finding 5/6 points of a day/night land navigation course.
For Gordon and the accomplished ROTC MSIV cohort, the accolades and badges aren’t as valuable as the perspective they are able to bring back to the battalion. While the COVID pandemic canceled advance camps for last year’s senior class, Gordon says her cohort’s participation can better help the next class prepare. “Our focus now is enabling our junior cadets to achieve and surpass us. How many more distinguished military graduates and Recondo badges can we get next year, and the one following?”
Air Force Cadets Placed in Selective Fields
For Air Force cadets, the assessment process begins their first year in the program and continues through their senior year, appearing in front of their leadership boards. Cadets are evaluated based on their grades, military bearing and technical expertise and are compared to cadets nationwide. During their junior year, cadets submit their preferences for competitive rated career fields, like pilots. Based on these assessments and submitted preferences, the Air Force assigns the cadets their military specialty.
Every Air Force cadet that applied was selected for rated positions within the USAF: Mackenzie Jorgensen, Si Yun (Sara) Lim, Alyssa Rote, Erin Beaudoin, Gerrit Vanvranken, Scott Potter, Jarod Okamura and Paul Dicorso.
“I didn’t know if I was going to get it or not. I was told the boards this year were very competitive, so I was very happy,” says Jorgensen, an international relations major in the Maxwell School and the College of Arts and Sciences. “I was very excited and relieved to know what I’m going to be doing.”
For air battle managers Jorgensen and Lim, their position is much like an offensive coordinator on a football team, helping oversee a combat situation and funneling resources where they are needed by observing radar or other intelligence.
“Initially there were eight of us put up on the boards, five of us got it originally,” says Jorgensen. A supplemental board allowed cadets to work on some aspect of their profile to increase their chances for selection, such as taking summer courses or technical training. “When we found out all three of them got it on the second boards, it was really exciting, and I think it’s a testament to how hard we work as a class and compete nationwide against other cadets in Air Force ROTC.”
Lim, a double major in international relations and political science in the Maxwell School and College of Arts and Sciences, was one of the cadets who earned her spot in the supplemental board. She says serving in the military is the culmination of a lifelong dream and building on the legacy of service her father began as an ROTC cadet in the South Korean military. “I got naturalized for citizenship in 2018. It was my first year of college. And that was probably the proudest moment of my life so far,” says Lim. “And one of the reasons I think I chose to go the military abroad is because I want to give back to the country that I call home.”
Mechanical engineering major Erin Beaudoin, aerospace engineering major Alyssa Rote and political science major Gerrit Vanvranken were selected for combat systems officer. This position is often sitting behind a pilot in a fighter jet. They will each attend advanced training in Florida for about a year, learning the technical application of their job as well as survival, evasion, resistance and escape training. All three are excited to continue training together.
Scott Potter, who was selected as a pilot, said flying is his dream. “I’ve wanted to be a pilot for almost as long as I can remember,” he said. He found out his selection during a meeting with his captain. “He sat me down and he said, ‘Well, sometimes you shoot for the stars and you come up short,’ and I put my head down and he said, ‘you got a pilot slot.’ And I jumped up out of my seat and put my hands up in the air.” Potter says everyone being selected for a rated position is a reflection of the ROTC program as a whole. “This was one of the most competitive boards in a long time,” he says. “So that’s the quality of cadet that we have at this detachment. Being around each other, we all make each other better just because everyone is such a high speed, high caliber person.”
Remotely Piloted Aircraft selections Jarod Okamura and Paul Dicorso will fly drones. “It’s cliché, but everyone has a different background and so we have a good diversity of thought in the detachment,” says Okamura. “And although we are technically competing against each other for a commission allocation or career selection, everyone pushes each other to succeed.”