The life of a freshman in ROTC
By Nicholas Michael Troftgruben

College: that monumental moment that you go from living in the comfort of your home with no responsibility to instantly being on your own alone in this big world. When I started my freshman year, I made a promise to myself that I would try everything and anything that sparked my interest. This promise has led to the busiest, demanding, and rewarding year of my young life.

As a child I always had the dream of being a pilot. I imagined soaring through the skies and banking huge arching turns over the sea and through the mountains. My childhood imagination seemed like dreams and nothing more. To keep my freshman promise and childhood dream alive, on my first day at Oregon State I strolled down the street to McAlexander Fieldhouse and nervously walked into Captain Butler’s office to tell him that I wanted to sign up for Air Force Reserved Officer Training Corps (ROTC). With blonde hair down to my shoulders, I wasn’t exactly the typical ROTC cadet: clean cut, professional, and standardized. Nonetheless, Captain Butler recognized my interest in the Air Force and started my paperwork, a physical, and the recommended barbershops in the area.

When the term started and classes began, not only did I start life as a college freshman, but I also started a new life as an ROTC cadet. I was scared to be thrown into a military environment because I had no military presence or history in my family. The first day of Physical Training, I woke up at 0600 and showed up at 0640 ready to start my first day, filled with nerves and adrenaline. Little did I know that even ROTC cadets try to get as much sleep as possible and no one else was going to be there that early. Immediately I felt the pressure to perform. It was a four to five year interview and it started day one. All of the eyes were pointed in the direction of the freshman AS 100s. This intimidating experience, although initially scary, was an eye opening experience. AFROTC was going to push me to be my best one hundred percent of the time.

As I left my first day in the program, I knew that there was a tough road ahead of me, but I also knew that I wasn’t alone. Everyone may have been pushing us, but they were also looking for who needed help. The pressure is immense, but in the end it will all be worth it. We are being trained so that we can gain the experience that we will need in intense situations. We are being trained to be officers from day one, and the training will continue until we enter active duty in the Air Force.

As time went by as both a new cadet and college student, I tried many new things. One of these classes was a Wilderness First Responder course. This course was about emergency response and medical care to patients in the wild. I took this course on a whim, not expecting to get a look at my dream job. Later in ROTC, we learned about various jobs in the Air Force. One of these jobs was Combat Rescue Officer. This job is entirely based on emergency response and it enthralled me. I found my future job in the Air Force.

This past year has given me a number of surprises, both good and bad. The early mornings and stress are worth it because I have never felt so accomplished and proud of what I do. AFROTC has turned into a big part of my life in a way that I never expected, and I can sincerely say that I am very thankful that I made a promise to myself many months ago.