College Hosts Annual Air Force Reserve Officer Training Corps (AFROTC) Commissioning Ceremony

During Reunion Weekend, Manhattan College’s detachment of AFROTC — the only one of its kind in New York City — celebrates more than 60 years on campus.

Two Manhattan College graduates, Erin Lavelle and Richard Armando Rodriguez will transition from cadets to Air Force Officers at the College’s annual commissioning ceremony on June 6. At the ceremony, the cadets will take the oath, “to support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic,” and pin on the rank of second lieutenant. This ceremony signifies them officially becoming part of the Air Force.

Held during the College’s Reunion Weekend, the ceremony will feature guest speaker retired Gen. Arthur J. Lichte ’71, a command pilot with more than 5,000 flying hours and former commander of Air Mobility Command, Scott Air Force Base, Ill. The ceremony is also an opportunity to honor the many Jasper soldiers and veterans — many of whom served in World Wars I and II, Vietnam, Korea, Iraq and Afghanistan.

Since Manhattan College opened its doors in 1853, the College has welcomed and educated many soldiers and veterans. In fact, for more than 60 years the College has hosted a detachment of the Air Force Reserve Officer Training Corps (AFROTC) — the only one of its kind in New York City.

The College first started training recruits in basic engineering courses for the military during World War II in 1943. This relationship led to the first Reserve Officer Training Corps program, which opened its doors in 1951 as Detachment 560. One of only 145 host institutions in the U.S., Manhattan College offers pre-commissioning education and training for 30 crosstown universities including Columbia University, New York University, CUNY and St. John’s University.

“With AFROTC at Manhattan College, we have the opportunity to recruit candidates from one of the most vibrant and diverse cities in the world with access to multiple world class educational institutions,” says Lt. Col. Michael G. LaFeve, USAF detachment commander and chair/professor of aerospace studies. “[Our location] allows us the opportunity to build a vibrant and diverse corps of cadets.”

AFROTC allows men and women to acquire strong leadership skills, complete an undergraduate degree and pay for school through a variety of competitive scholarships. In addition, students in the program are guaranteed a placement in their area of expertise after graduation. Currently, Detachment 560 has 62 cadets, nine of which are Manhattan College students.

“In regards to my experience with AFROTC and Manhattan College, I can easily say it has made it an even better experience for my freshman year,” says Peter Kuzniewski ’17, an electrical engineering major. “It has taught me a major lesson regarding time management, a key to being successful within college, and AFROTC has introduced me to upperclassmen, who are always great to know to utilize their knowledge and experience, whether it be about school, life or AFROTC in general.”

AFROTC cadets spend Fridays on Manhattan College’s campus and participate in aerospace studies courses, leadership laboratories, and physical fitness training (PT). Cadets are required to take part in two PT sessions each week. In between sophomore and junior year, all recruits attend a 28-day field-training trip in Maxwell, Ala., and are evaluated on their leadership potential in high-intense environments.

“[AFROTC] defines you in ways that no one else can,” says Capt. Joey Buya Aguilo, recruiting flight commander and assistant professor of aerospace studies. “For example, our two 2014 graduates are ahead of their peers because they understand the values of leadership. They understand the core values of integrity first, service before self and excellence in all we do.”

“My experience in the AFROTC program has been nothing short of extraordinary. Not only has it provided me with an impressive skill set applicable to my academic and professional careers, but it has also given me a deeper fulfillment and purpose in life,” says Lavelle, who recently graduated with a B.A. in psychology and a minor in sociology. “Above all, AFROTC has given me a new group of friends who make up my Air Force family, and this family is why we dedicate our lives in service to our nation. They are truly second to none.”