UM Air Force ROTC prepares for possibility of war with Iraq
Students and families react to the prospect of deployment
In a presentation nationally televised Wednesday, Colin Powell, U.S. Secretary of State, told the U.N. Security Council that Iraq has made “no effort” to disarm, in spite of a series of U.N. resolutions.
Powell used electronic intercepts, satellite photographs and other intelligence sources as evidence that Iraq is currently developing biological and chemical weapons and is in the process of attaining nuclear weapons.
Closer to home, as the possibility of war with Iraq becomes more imminent, students enrolled in various Reserve Officer Training Corps [ROTC] and military units have grown apprehensive with regards to the likelihood of deployment after graduation.
“Anybody who’s in the military probably has a 50 percent chance of getting shipped overseas within their four-year contract,” said senior Tom Berryman, who is currently in the inactive reserves for the Navy. “They need officers in wartime just as badly as they need enlisted.”
Currently, UM has an Air Force ROTC program with students who will be graduating in May. According to Air Force ROTC professors, Air Force ROTC at UM incorporates not only UM students, but students from eight othercross-town schools including Barry University, Florida International University [FIU] and Florida Atlantic University [FAU].
“What most people ask is, ‘When are they going to send you guys?'” said Captain Jack Wesley Miller of the Air Force ROTC at UM. “The best way to explain it is, right now, cadets in ROTC are serving their country best by being cadets and training to be officers.”
According to Miller, there is no immediate possibility of UM Air Force ROTC graduates deploying to Iraq anytime in the near future.
“Our number-one goal is to build better citizens for America; second is to commission officers in the military,” Miller said. “We’d be doing the Air Force a disservice by sending off to war ROTC cadets that are still in training.”
While in the Air Force ROTC at UM, cadets participate in a number of community-oriented services, including the Blood Drive for the Red Cross, the Color Guard and Habitat for Humanity.
“ROTC cadets are serving their country closer to home,” Miller said.
Ronald Kosobucki, Lieutenant Colonel of the Air Force ROTC at UM, further explained the current role and necessity of ROTC students and recent graduates.
“Education and training is key,” Kosobucki said. “The Air Force is not willing to jeopardize them in a mission until they have been properly trained.”
According to Kosobucki, ROTC graduates will have at least six months to a year of further post-graduate training before the chance of deployment is even remotely possible.
“We make every effort possible to minimize our losses,” Kosobucki said. “They have to be highly trained – a Commander will never risk a person’s life unnecessarily.”
“Some [cadets] don’t even make it through training,” Kosobucki said. “But the by-product of training good citizens is that those who make it through [the program] become good officers and serve our country.”
“Not everybody is cut out for the military, but everybody leaves the ROTC program a better citizen,” Miller said.
Recent UM graduate Lt. Peter Gryn is working with the UM Air Force ROTC staff until his pilot training begins in June.
“I think most everybody has the understanding that they’re training for the future and that they’re important for the future of the Air Force,” Gryn said.
Other colleges and universities in South Florida are also reacting to the possibility of their cadets being deployed.
Josh Nunez, an Army ROTC cadet at FIU and a member of the National Guard, shares a similar perspective.
“I wouldn’t like to deploy, but it’s part of the job,” said Nunez, whose unit in the National Guard has already forewarned of future deployment.
Friends and family of ROTC graduates are concerned for the well-being of their loved ones.
“My mother doesn’t want me to go, but she understands that it has to be done,” Nunez said. “I guess that’s the feeling among everybody.”
Annette Price, a sophomore at Miami-Dade Community College [MDCC] and girlfriend of Josh Nunez, says she realizes that her boyfriend may be going to war soon.
“I’m terrified. It’s a really scary thing – I could lose him,” Price said. “I think the chances of him going are pretty good because they need all the men they can get.”
Cicily Bilecki, whose husband Tim Bilecki is a graduate of UM School of Law and first Lieutenant for the Judge Advocate General (JAG) of the U.S. Army, is worried about the possibility of her husband going to war.
“It makes me sad, but then a part of me knows he has to do his job,” Bilecki said. “I don’t really want think about it – I think it would be harder if I had kids and was alone.”
Priscilla Mooney, a junior at UM, voiced similar concerns for her boyfriend, Sami Nader, a student at FIU and MDCC who is currently a Lance Corporal in the Marines.
According to Mooney, a Hialeah unit has already been activated, and she is worried that her boyfriend’s unit will be next.
“I’m really scared – it’s close enough that I think he might go,” Mooney said. “Hopefully it won’t be while he’s in college, but I think that since he’s a reservist, he’ll go either way.”
“I would hope they’d send non-college-bound kids before they’d send kids who were studying,” Mooney said. “But he wants to go for his country.”
While aware of their mission as members of the U.S. Armed Services, most would like to see conflict met with peaceful resolution.
“I pray for peace,” Berryman said. “I would hope that our nation’s leaders can find a way to prevent this from coming to war.”
“Diplomacy is a powerful tool. World pressure may push Iraq to disclose weapons,” Kosobucki said. “All warriors hope for peace.”
Whitney Friedrich can be contacted at Witz615@aol.com.