After seeing his first air show at the age of 4, Washburn University senior Charles Weniger knew he wanted to be a pilot. His decision to join the Air Force ROTC in his sophomore year put him on the path to making that dream a reality.
In his fourth year of ROTC, Weniger holds the rank of a Cadet Lieutenant Colonel and is positioned second in charge as Vice Commander. The political science major is one of five ROTC cadets at Washburn University. One is a law school graduate, three are seniors and one is a junior.
Together they are known as the “cross-towners,” ROTC members that are a part of a program for cadets attending universities outside of The University of Kansas.
On each Tuesday cross-towners, including the five at Washburn, travel to the KU campus for ROTC leadership labs.
Usually two hours long, leadership labs are an important event for cadets. They provide time to participate in team building activities, learn about effective leadership skills and converse with active duty officers, a position that all cadets will attain upon graduation from college.
However, Tuesday, Oct. 23, the KU ROTC program, consisting of about 70 members, will travel to Washburn University for the weekly meeting.
“It’s a way to make cross-towners here at Washburn feel included in the KU ROTC program,” said Weniger. “And it’s a positive payback of sorts for cadets on here on campus.”
While the Air Force ROTC consists mostly of males, about one-third of the program’s membership is females. KU junior Stephanie Langley is among that fraction.
In her third year of ROTC, she is ranked as a Cadet First Lieutenant. Her books and tuition are covered through an Air Force ROTC scholarship that she received prior to her freshman year. She also receives a monthly stipend through the scholarship.
“I grew up in a military family,” said Langley. “So when I received the ROTC scholarship, I knew it was something worth my while, and I ended up really enjoying the program.”
Students who receive scholarships, like Langley and Weniger, must maintain a GPA of 2.5 or above to keep the financial aid throughout their college career. Cadets who don’t have a scholarship must maintain a minimum 2.0 GPA to stay in the Air Force ROTC program. A variety of ROTC scholarships can be achieved through good grades and extracurricular involvement.
Langley explained that the numbers of years cadets spend in the college program are the number of years they must give back as an officer in the Air Force after graduation.
“Since I will be a five-year senior, I plan to spend five years in the Air Force,” said Langley. “The first year will be spent in what they call Basic School and the second year officers are assigned a specific job.”
Although some cadets’ college majors don’t pertain to the work they do during their time in the Air Force, Langley hopes to put her major in architectural engineering to good use by working in civil engineering while serving in the Air Force.
Weniger, who graduates in May, will find out where he will be stationed for his time in the Air Force at the end of this semester or at the beginning of the spring semester. Unlike Langley, he is positioned in a rated category, which will enable him to start his work as a pilot.
This year, as head of public affairs, Langley is in charge of spreading the word about the KU Air Force ROTC program.
“We do a lot of giving back to the community as well as some fundraising activities,” said Langley.
Aside from her commitments as a cadet, Langley is pleased that she still has a good amount of free time.
“Through being a cadet, I’ve learned a lot about time management, and I’ve learned even more about myself,” said Langley. “There’s really a sense of pride that comes from being a part of this program.”