Flying to the Future: Air Force R.O.T.C. commander leads cadets to success

Flying to the Future: Air Force R.O.T.C. commander leads cadets to success

Flying to the Future: Air Force R.O.T.C. commander leads cadets to success
October 01
12:47 2015

Kyle Martin | Staff Writer

@Kyle_Martin35

Next year, chemistry senior Kaitlyn Trujillo will be a commissioned officer in the United States Air Force. She is prospectively looking at Europe, but for now she is a Cadet wing commander in the UNT Air Force Reserve Officer Training Corps (R.O.T.C.) Detachment 835.

Trujillo oversees roughly 82 cadets in the program. She has to keep them in line, keep them fit physically, emotionally and academically, make sure they are apt and ready to complete objectives, and maintain morale throughout the corps. Cadets look to her for guidance and leadership in times of need. As wing commander, Trujillo is the figurehead of the cadets in the corps.

The senior saw tremendous opportunity in the armed forces, as well as a family legacy to live up to. Both Trujillo and her younger sister Kelli, psychology sophomore and cadet third class, are in the UNT Air Force R.O.T.C. program.

“I’ve always wanted to join the military. [I have] a huge family background in the military, so I figured R.O.T.C. would be a good way to go in as an officer and still get a college degree,” Trujillo said.

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Chemistry senior Kaitlyn Trujillo is the cadet wing commander for Detachment 835. Meagan Sullivan | Associate Visuals Editor

She joined R.O.T.C. as a freshman, and as a senior was selected to lead the detachment. The process for becoming wing commander is notably extreme, so achieving the position was no small feat.

Capt. Daniel Snodgrass is a member of the wing’s cadre, or faculty that teaches and commands all R.O.T.C cadets. Capt. Snodgrass said Trujillo’s position is no easy task by any means, but it has its rewards

“It’s tough being a wing commander because you expect everybody to do their job and hold them accountable and responsible for doing their job,” Snodgrass said. “Sometimes there’s uncomfortable conversations, but she gets to reward a lot of cadets as well.”

In order to become wing commander, Trujillo had to apply and get selected for a shot at the position. Once chosen, she had to prove herself in field training, the basic training all potential Air Force officers must complete through the R.O.T.C. program.

Field training consisted of a 28-day training program. Trujillo spent two weeks at Camp Shelby in Mississippi and two weeks at Maxwell Air Force Base in Alabama, passing off objectives and learning how to be an effective leader in the armed forces.

After she completed field training, the cadet was interviewed by Lt. Col. Jody Addison, the commander of Detachment 835. She was then chosen to lead as wing commander of the UNT detachment.

Lt. Col. Addison noticed Trujillo’s vision and creativity in the corps and saw something in her that was ultimately the deciding factor for honoring her with the position.

“She was quite confident and stood out as a strong, charismatic leader that would be able to engage the cadets in a positive way,” Addison said.

In her position, Trujillo hand picks her own staff, shares an office with her vice wing commander and assigns jobs within the corps.

“The longer you’re in the program, the more this kind of becomes a second home,” Trujillo said. “So even if I don’t have anything to do, this is still where we all come to hang out, meet and study for homework. It’s a nice place to get together with everybody.”

Trujillo sees the R.O.T.C. program and her wing as one collective family. To aid in being a successful wing, cadets spend time together outside of their positions and training to bond and maintain a strong relationship with each other.

Her staff and fellow cadets look up to her and see the same leadership skills and vision that Lt. Col. Addison saw. Cadet Mitchell Saville, linguistics senior and vice wing commander under Trujillo, remarks on her initiative and direction as leader of the wing.

“It’s nice to be working under a leadership where your needs are considered… Everything is addressed in a real-time manner, which in a dynamic leadership position is crucial if you want anything to happen,” Saville said. “It’s been a pleasure working under her.”

Aside from leading Detachment 835, Trujillo holds a job outside of the program, volunteers, and commutes from Allen. She drives up to campus five days a week and puts a great deal of time and effort into making sure everything runs smoothly.

Trujillo is under scholarship, which she obtained immediately after graduating high school. There are many scholarship options under the R.O.T.C. program and other opportunities for success within the corps, but that doesn’t make it easy. An individual’s GPA and his or her ability to keep up with academics are two of the key aspects for achievement within the program.

The wing commander’s plan for the future is bright. She wishes to be a pharmacist within the Air Force with her chemistry degree and biology minor and hopes to be stationed in Europe, having traveled to England and France during high school.

To Trujillo, the most rewarding part of being in R.O.T.C. isn’t the money or the title, but instead the interactions with her colleagues.

“My favorite part is actually training the incoming freshman and sophomore cadets,” Trujillo said. “I love watching how they go from being nervous about being here in the beginning, kind of shy, to actually coming out of their shell and becoming more confident in helping out others, and seeing them transition from that nervous initial cadet.”

Featured Image: Lt. Col. Jody Addison, SSgt. Daniel Brown, Capt. Daniel Snodgrass, and Capt. Christine Shirley pose outside the Air Force R.O.T.C. building Tuesday afternoon. Meagan Sullivan | Associate Visuals Editor 

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