Service and Leadership: Air Force ROTC
|This is the eighth in an occasional series highlighting the unique educational environment at The Citadel. "Service and Leadership" will profile people and events that exemplify "The Citadel Experience," its leadership laboratory and the college's mission of achieving excellence in the education of principled leaders.|
Air Force ROTC
|The mission of the Citadel’s Air Force ROTC unit is to develop Air Force leaders and citizens of character, dedicated to serving the nation. The unit here is one of 144 Air Force ROTC units located at college and university campuses throughout the United States and Puerto Rico. The Air Force Senior ROTC Program is designed to recruit, educate and commission officer candidates through college campus programs based on Air Force requirements.
The U.S. Air Force commissions approximately 2,000 second lieutenants through the Senior ROTC program each year. The Citadel’s Air Force ROTC unit (Detachment 765) has commissioned nearly 100 cadets in the past four years. This year, 13 cadets are contracted to commission and more than 100 Citadel cadets are actively participating in the AFROTC program.
The detachment’s vision is to cultivate a culture and environment of continuous learning, enthusiasm, pride, and tradition. Much like the school’s focus on core values, the Air Force core values center on Integrity, Service and Excellence. The detachment’s new commander, Col. Doug Fehrmann, Citadel Class of ’83, notes the importance of high standards.
“I’m a big supporter of the Values and Respect program here because it closely mirrors what we do in the Air Force.”
To that end, 29 Air Force cadets participated in training during their summer furlough. Eighteen cadets participated in Field Training, a rigorous program involving physical conditioning, weapons training and survival training. More importantly, Field Training is an opportunity to develop skills as both a leader and team member. Successfully completing this training is a requirement for receiving a commission. Twelve Citadel cadets graduated with distinction: one was a “Distinguished Graduate,” meaning he finished within the top 10 percent of his entire Field Training Unit. Two others earned “Superior Performer” ratings (graduating in top 20 percent of unit), while nine additional cadets finished in the top third of their unit. Eleven cadets attended voluntary Professional Development Training. Three junior class cadets had the opportunity to participate in a robust Cultural Immersion Program and spent time traveling through India, Morocco and the Czech Republic. Another six spent three weeks familiarizing themselves with the Air Force mission at stateside bases, where the highlight for most was an incentive ride on a jet aircraft.
Integrity, service and excellence are a year-round pursuit for the Air Force detachment. During the most recent ROTC weekend, a group of 50 cadets traveled to Washington, D.C. to explore the Capitol, spend time at the Pentagon and tour the White House. Cadets who stayed in Charleston volunteered for a day of service. Fifteen cadets gave back to the local community at Habitat for Humanity building sites on James Island and in Mount Pleasant.
The end goal of all Detachment 765 training is clear: produce quality leaders for the Air Force. The detachment here hopes to do more of that in the coming years.
We are trying to boost our numbers in AFROTC. The Air Force has been going through downsizing, but the end is near. We definitely want to see more Citadel cadets commission in the Air Force,” Fehrmann said.
A native of Charleston, Col. Fehrmann has spent his 20 plus years of service all over the world, most recently as the vice commander of an Air Expeditionary Wing supporting operations throughout Southwest Asia. He returned to The Citadel this year as the commander of Air Force ROTC Detachment 765, determined to pass on lessons learned from his experiences.
“An opportunity arose that I couldn’t pass up,” he said. “The chance to mentor and teach cadets at my alma mater was very appealing, because that is essentially what I’ve been doing for the last 10 to 12 years of my Air Force career while working with young officer and enlisted Airmen.
"Also, Charleston is my hometown and after 24 years of being away from my home and family, I welcomed the chance to return to The Citadel and lead the ROTC unit.”
Fehrmann joined the military because he wanted to fly airplanes and serve his country; naturally, the Air Force seemed like a good fit. Although he has over 4,600 flying hours in KC-10, KC-135, C-21, T-38 and T-37 aircraft, the Air Force has taught him a lot more than how to fly. His recent one-year remote gave him a fresh perspective on leadership.
Leadership development is a cornerstone of The Citadel experience.
“When supporting combat operations, you can’t make mistakes," Fehrmann said. "Your experience guides your decisions and the decisions you make have immediate impact on the daily operations of military operations throughout the area of responsibility. Your decisions are magnified because the people you are leading are actually performing the mission and what you decide will influence their success.”
Fehrmann credits his Citadel experience with providing a leadership foundation. It was here he acquired a working knowledge of basic leadership skills, which were then developed further through the training and experience he received in the Air Force. Perhaps more importantly, he gained important insight about himself.
“You know your capabilities better because you’ve been tested and introduced to stressful situations already, so you perform better under stress. You also learn how to think on your feet and make decisions quickly, which is right in line with military operations.”
Fehrmann has enjoyed working with Citadel cadets since he started in July, and is looking forward to boosting participation in the Air Force ROTC program. His personal insight is invaluable for cadet development, and his years of experience can only further leadership development in the Corps.
“My time at the Citadel taught me a lot about what to do as a leader and some things about what not to do as a leader,” he said.
“(To help teach leadership) I use my own experiences and pass along observations about leaders I’ve worked with or for; both good and bad. I like to pass along stories and anecdotes," he said. "We can teach the theory easily enough, but the theory actually means something when you can relate it to real world experiences.”
Fehrmann is a graduate of both the Naval and Air War College and has served tours on the Air Staff and the U.S. Transportation Command, but teaching has been the most enjoyable part of his career.
“The most rewarding part of my career has been teaching younger pilots how to manage a mission and how to land a 420,000 pound KC-10,” he said. Teaching and mentoring this generation of Citadel cadets promises to be a gratifying next step.”
Special thanks to Capt. Allison Kojak of The Citadel Air Force ROTC detachment for submitting this story.