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AFROTC detachment’s improvement program spotlights AF history, beautifies facilities

Maj. Jim Bodnar, University of Florida Air Force ROTC detachment 150 unit admissions officer, adds the finishing touches to the detachment's U.S.A.F. Thunderbirds wall mural. (Courtesy photo)

Maj. Jim Bodnar, University of Florida Air Force ROTC detachment 150 unit admissions officer, adds the finishing touches to the detachment's U.S.A.F. Thunderbirds wall mural. (Courtesy photo)

Cadet Tyler Holley, of the University of Florida's Air Force ROTC detachment, adds the final touches on the detachment 150's wall mural of the U.S.A.F. Thunderbirds in flight. The mural measuring 11-feet high by 24-feet wide took an eight-person cadet and cadre team three weeks to complete. (Courtesy photo)

Cadet Tyler Holley, of the University of Florida's Air Force ROTC detachment, adds the final touches on the detachment 150's wall mural of the U.S.A.F. Thunderbirds in flight. The mural measuring 11-feet high by 24-feet wide took an eight-person cadet and cadre team three weeks to complete. (Courtesy photo)

MAXWELL AIR FORCE BASE, Ala. -- University of Florida Air Force ROTC detachment 150 cadets are in their final months of a four-year improvement program ensuring all who enter the detachment halls are aware they are in 'blue' territory.

The improvement program began in 2006 when routine spring cleaning led to the discovery of historic Air Force documents and inspired the detachment to 'spring' into action.

"The unit discovered items such as old detachment flags and banners and plaques from local scholarship providers," said Maj. Craig Heitzler, the assistant professor of Aerospace studies and education officer for detachment 150. "At that point, we decided it was very important to develop a larger plan to prominently display these historically significant items."

The cadets also uncovered the original copy of the general's order dated Dec. 17, 1946, which established detachment 150 and others as 'senior division air ROTC' units at universities.

"It is now preserved nicely with matting and a frame hanging in the main hallway for all to see," Major Heitzler said. "From there, the pride in the history of our detachment grew as well as our desire to preserve and display all the historically significant items we could find."

First year improvement projects included structural updates to the stairwells and hallways at the detachment and the reception area the following year.

Also introduced in the second year of the program were senior cadet projects.
"Senior projects ranged from handmade display cases for heritage items, to a collection of interviews and stories from veterans surrounding the University of Florida," the major said.

During the third year of improvements, cadet offices and storage areas were targeted.

The unit's final year project required an eight-person cadet and cadre team who dedicated three weeks during the summer break to paint a hand-designed 11-foot high by 24-foot wide mural of the U.S.A.F. Thunderbirds in flight.

Recently Maj. Jim Bodnar, the unit admissions officer and Cadet Tyler Holley completed the finishing touches on the paintings.

"The Thunderbirds are the symbol of the United States Air Force and the inspiration for why many young men and women enter into the Air Force or AFROTC," Major Heitzler explained. "Basically we wanted a very big Thunderbird mural and to do it the right way, in order to capture the essence of that symbolism."

The detachment enrolls approximately 150 cadets per year and according to the major, many of the cadets contributed to the projects in various ways, by volunteering a portion of their free time or summer break to paint or participate in fundraising activities.

"It is very exciting to see cadets and cadre taking a little bit of their time to chip in and help with the various aspects of our improvement program," Major Heitzler continued. "Not only was all this important for us, but we wanted to do this for our alumni and for future generations of AFROTC cadets that walk the halls of detachment 150."

For more information on the Air Force ROTC program, visit www.afrotc.com/.