Tuskegee Commander “Doubles Down” on AFJROTC Flight Academy

  • Published
  • 15th Cadet Wing Public Affairs

On July 27th, 2023, the Red Tail Flight Academy team graduated the newest cohort of Air Force Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps Flight Academy students during a ceremony held at the Tuskegee Airmen National Historic Site.

The AFJROTC Flight Academy program was designed to increase rated interest among high school students to help address the ongoing US-wide pilot shortage while also increasing diversity.

“The AFJROTC Flight Academy is one of the many ways the Air Force is tackling the chief of staff’s charge to ‘return the luster and get after rated diversity’,” said Col. Johnny McGonigal, headquarters, AFJROTC director. “We have a competitive selection process to ensure a sound government investment and then we ‘flight follow’ the graduates for five-years after graduation to see how the program influences their development.”

The team at Moton Field, home of the original Tuskegee Airmen, graduated nine scholars this year who, after a rigorous 8-week flying program, now hold a private pilot’s license, and three credits towards their undergraduate degree at no cost to them and no military commitment. Of the graduates, six are entering their twelfth-grade year of high school this fall and considering college opportunities where their newly earned credentials and credits can be applied.

“How many of you want a scholarship to attend Tuskegee University in 2024,” asked Lt Col. Jason Newcomer, AFROTC Detachment 015 commander at Tuskegee University. “I’m offering each of the rising seniors a full tuition and fee scholarship for their first year that can translate into the AFROTC Historically Black College University scholarship on your second year,” he said, shocking the audience as he announced the $125,000 per-student opportunity.

The announcement came at a time where the detachment has struggled to produce rated graduates, largely due to low enrollments and lack of rated interest, both of which the team at Detachment 015 turned around over the past 12-months as they launched a flight simulator program and more than tripled program enrollments.

“These are the exact type of cadets we want in our program,” urged Maj. Scott Dolar, Detachment 015’s operations officer. “They have the grades, grit, fitness, and military interest to be successful cadets. The Air Force has already invested in them through AFJROTC. Our team wants to continue that investment and add them to the next generation of rated officers.”

 Dr. Charlotte P. Morris, Tuskegee’s president, bestowed Detachment 015 with ten one-year tuition and fees scholarships to be awarded annually to help the unit recruit quality talent and bridge the financial gap between the time a cadet arrives on campus until they are eligible for the AFROTC HBCU scholarship that kicks in at the start of their second year. The foregoing, coupled with the fact that the university provides free room and board to all AFROTC scholarship recipients means that Det 015 cadets on scholarship get a free ride to a highly rated HBCU. 

“Tuskegee students have an amazing opportunity,” claimed Col. Aaron Ruona, AFROTC Southeast region commander. “The TU president’s scholarship combined with our HBCU scholarship gives cadets a $136,000 education for the cost of one year’s room and board. Bridging resources provided through TU, AFJROTC, and AFROTC are great ways to recruit the top talent and diversity our nation needs, especially for our rated careers.”