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The Air Force ROTC at USF

Two days a week, the Air Force ROTC cadets at the University of South Florida are up before the sun rises, participating in a physical training routine. That is just the beginning of their day however, as the afternoon brings class and studying as they work towards a college degree.

Well before the sun rises, or the Marshall Student Center opens for the day, the sound of chants and footsteps can be heard up and down the University of South Florida’s Maple drive.

Two days a week, bright and early, the University’s Air Force Reserve Officer Training Corps (AFROTC) can be found performing their physical training routine.

Members of the AFROTC run across campus.

The day we tagged along, cadets arrived at the tennis courts alongside the C.W. Bill Young Hall at 5 a.m. and began stretching and receiving direction as a unit. The cadets then broke  into smaller groups, rotating through three training stations where they ran stairs, completed pushups and pullups, and finished with sprints and crunches.

When the groups finish, they join together once again for a run across campus, never leaving anyone behind, never outrunning their slowest member.

“It’s for physical fitness but  also to build esprit de corps -- to build teamwork,” said Col. James Cardoso, Commander of Air Force ROTC Detachment 158 at USF.

After their run, the cadets hit the showers, dress in their military uniforms and report for drill training, where they practice positions, steps, marching and more.

The morning routine came to a close at 11 a.m., but for cadets like Matt Lopes the day had just begun. With an afternoon full of classes and studying ahead of him, it was time for Lopes to change into his civilian clothes and earn his degree in criminology.

“You have to be committed,” said Lopes, a sophomore at USF. “If you’re willing to step out of your comfort zone, be challenged and put in the work, you’ll succeed.”

Cadet Matt Lopes

“You see them come here early in the morning, sacrificing their time and sacrificing their sleep on top of already going to school and working jobs, it gives you a sense of being at ease about what the future looks like for our country and our world,” said Col. Cardoso.

A rigorous start to a day, but for these ROTC students the challenge represents an important step in their mission to make a difference.

Video and story by Ryan Noone, University Communications and Marketing

Photos by Eric Younghans, USF Health Communications


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