Air Force ROTC keeps ABUs in the family

  • Published
  • By Capt. Beau Downey
  • Air Force ROTC Detachment 207

Air Force Reserve Officer Training Corps Detachment 207 at Saint Louis University invited leadership from a local Air Force Junior ROTC unit to receive a large donation of Airman Battle Uniform sets Dec. 18 in St. Louis, Missouri.

The donation, valued at more than $20,000, resulted from the transition of Air Force ROTC cadets to the Operational Camouflage Pattern uniform during the Fall 2020 academic semester.

“This is really about stewardship of our resources,” said Lt. Col. Russell Montante, Detachment 207 commander. “By donating these uniforms to a program like the one at Soldan, we know they will go to good use equipping students for years to come.”

The uniforms -- which include blouses, pants, boots, hats, all-weather coats, and accessories -- will be used to outfit some of the more than 150 high school students in the Air Force Junior ROTC program at Soldan International Studies High School in St. Louis. Prior to the donation, cadets in the high school program primarily wore only a modified version of the Air Force service dress.

For retired Chief Master Sgt. Bryan Shipman, Soldan aerospace science instructor, the uniforms are more than a material item to add to a supply closet.

“For some of our students who are thinking about a future in the Air Force, this is a motivational factor because they see us in this uniform,” Shipman said. “That’s the connection for them.”

Detachment 207 is the only Air Force ROTC unit in the St. Louis metro area. Soldan is a public magnet high school with a diverse student population that is reflected in the sizeable participation of students in the Air Force Junior ROTC program, which accounts for nearly a third of the school’s total enrollment.

Instructors take seriously their responsibility to instill concepts of professionalism and citizenship for participants in the program.

“Giving the cadets a chance to come out of their shell and be part of something bigger – that’s the goal,” Shipman said. “It’s also the challenge. But our program really does connect with students.”

While Air Force Junior ROTC is not intended to produce candidates for the college-level Air Force ROTC, Montante noted the value of connecting the programs that sit less than three miles apart.

“These are the future leaders of our nation, whether or not that future involves wearing one of these uniforms,” he said. “Developing and maintaining these type of relationships is critical to accessing the full range of talent this area has to offer our program and our Air Force.”