Wellesley is known for many assets, including its stellar student-teacher ratio, excellent academics and beautiful campus centered on Lake Waban. Yet few people know that the college is home to several individuals who are a part of Detachment 365, an Air Force Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (AFROTC) program that unites individuals from Wellesley, Tufts, Harvard, Salem State and MIT. The AFROTC program teaches students aerospace, leadership and physical fitness skills at MIT’s campus. Upon successful graduation, each individual is eligible to immediately become a commissioned officer in the United States Air Force.
Marina Hostrop ’20 was already interested in AFROTC before coming to Wellesley due to her family’s history in the military. She made the decision to get involved, however, after hearing the specifics of participating in one of the ROTC programs at Wellesley.
“I became interested in Wellesley AFROTC after talking to [a cadet] at a Wellesley ROTC information session,” said Hostrop.
Jordanne Stobbs-Vergara ’19 joined Detachment 365 after her high school counselor connected her to the program at Wellesley. She had decided to participate in a junior military program in high school because of a childhood dream of going into the military, and she wanted to continue it in college.
“I’ve wanted to serve in the military since I was about nine years old and I watched G.I. Jane with my sister. I always wanted to grow up and be Demi Moore. But as I got older, my goals shifted, and I decided I wanted to go into law. My desire to serve, however, was still there. My new plan is to be a JAG [military lawyer] in the Air Force, so not quite G.I. Jane,” Stobbs-Vergara said.
AFROTC provides a framework for individuals who are completing a college degree to improve their time management, analytical skills and physical fitness. The program offers three distinct types of academic scholarships, ranging from full tuition to the equivalent of in-state tuition. Cadets are also given monthly stipends and money for books.
Extra-academic internships abound for those interested in AFROTC. Many of them are AFROTC career exploration opportunities, including the Rising Sophomore Summer Program, which offers cadets an in-depth exploration of a fully functional Air Force installation. Other internships involve engineering research at NASA, parachuting programs and foreign language immersion internships.
Hostrop was especially interested in the language immersion programs offered, specifically Project Go, which provides prestigious merit-based scholarships to eligible cadets. The program is designed to improve the language skills, regional expertise and intercultural communication skills necessary for successful officers. Several cadets at Wellesley have participated in this project, which is sponsored by the Defense Language and National Security Education Office and The Institute of International Education.
For Hostrop, Project Go and AFROTC gave her the perfect opportunity to expand her horizons by studying Japanese over the summer.
Beyond the financial and internship benefits, AFROTC also offers a direct path into a military career after graduation. With a 96 percent selection rate, many in Detachment 365 go on to immediately become commissioned officers. The minimum service requirement is four years, but some serve up to 10 years or more. Cadets have many options for career paths within the Air Force, including serving as pilots, combat system officers, air battle managers and air force nurses.
In fact, AFROTC welcomes diversity, which is something that Stobbs-Vergara likes to point out when people ask her about her experience in the program.
“A lot of people assume ROTC isn’t for them because they don’t fit with the ‘Hoorah’ stereotypical military person, but I’ve met so many different types of amazing people through ROTC. Nearly every job that exists in the civilian world also exists in the military. There is so much more space for diversity in ROTC than I think most people realize,” she said.
This diverse group of cadets attend a one-hour class on Aerospace Studies and a two-hour leadership laboratory every Tuesday afternoon at MIT. They have to attend physical training every two weeks, and are also expected to work out on their own during the week. This requirement is in preparation for the physical fitness assessment they must pass each semester.
The cadets’ hard work paid off recently. In December of 2016, The United States Air Force announced that Detachment 365 had won the 2016 Right of Line Award, which recognizes the best detachment in the nation. Furthermore, they received the Best in Region Award for the Northeast, which includes other schools like Cornell, Yale and Boston University.
Detachment 365 also boasts the highest overall GPA at an average of 3.545 out of 4.0. The detachment is also constructed of more than high-achieving students; they have an overall physical fitness score of 97.42 out of 100, meaning that they also excel in athletics.
For Hostrop, the prestige and internship opportunities are only a part of why she loves being involved in this division of AFROTC. It also gives her the chance to meet similarly dedicated individuals in the larger Boston area.
“Coming from Wellesley, I enjoy being part of a community of students from multiple colleges in the Boston area who are striving for success and dedicated to serving their country,” Hostrop said.
The Wellesley cadets, bound together by their dedication to service and country, report high satisfaction with the communities they have built within the detachment as well as with other cadets at Wellesley.
“ROTC has introduced me to the most amazing group of service-minded women at Wellesley. It has provided me with friends, a support system and constant motivation to improve so I can be the best military leader possible when I commission,” Stobbs-Vergara said.
Being a part of AFROTC means more to these individuals than just reduced tuition. It is a chance for them to explore various career paths, serve their country, build strong habits and establish supportive communities during their undergraduate studies.