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MIT Air Force ROTC Detachment 365 named best in the nation

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Cadets from MIT Air Force ROTC Detachment 365 pose with Secretary of the Air Force Deborah Lee James (center).
Cadets from MIT Air Force ROTC Detachment 365 pose with Secretary of the Air Force Deborah Lee James (center).

The United States Air Force announced in December that it selected the MIT Air Force Reserve Officer Training Corps (AFROTC) Detachment 365 for the 2016 Right of Line Award. The award recognizes the top AFROTC detachment in the nation. Detachment 365 also received the Best in Region Award for the Northeast, having competed against detachments at Yale and Cornell universities. The last time Detachment 365 won at the national level was in 2010. 

The award is presented to three detachments in the U.S. based on training, education, recruiting, and overall performance. Recipients are selected from 145 AFROTC detachments nationwide competing in small, medium, and large categories.

“What distinguishes the detachment from others is not just academic excellence, but the dedication and commitment the cadets have in becoming the best officers they can be, whether their experiences come from academia, research, internships, or community service,” said Captain Peterson Dela Cruz, MIT technical instructor and operations flight commander. Among other accomplishments, Detachment 365 achieved the highest overall grade point average of 3.545/4.0 and physical fitness scores of 97.42/100.

The detachment, which includes students from MIT, Harvard University, Tufts University, Wellesley College, and Salem State, also garnered numerous individual awards, including the coveted U.S. Air Force Cadet of the Year award given to MIT aeronautics and astronautics graduate student Martin York, as the top cadet among AFROTC, United States Air Force Academy, and Officer Training School. Nicholas James, and MIT senior in aeronautics and astronautics, received the 2016 Outstanding AFROTC Cadet as the top AFROTC cadet in the Northeast region. Kira Headrick, a senior at Harvard, was highlighted in Business Insider magazine’s article, “Twelve of the Most Impressive Students at Harvard Right Now,” for her accomplishments as a pilot-select and NASA intern. Dela Cruz was also recognized as the 2016 AFROTC Recruiting Officer of the Year.

Balance has been the key to the detachment’s success, according to Dela Cruz. Students are not only involved in academics and ROTC; they are also active in research, community service, varsity athletics, and other extracurricular activities. During MIT’s Open House in April 2016, the detachment collaborated with the MIT Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics to coordinate the first-ever landing and display of an Air Force UH-1N helicopter on Briggs Field. It’s not uncommon for students to participate in multiple programs within an academic year, such as study abroad programs to Oman, prestigious internships at SpaceX, and cutting-edge research at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.

“Our cadets come from some of the most prestigious schools in the country, but humility is a big part of our cadet wing,” noted Dayannara Munoz, an MIT senior who served as cadet wing commander last spring. “We're proud of our schools and detachment, but we’re more proud of the team we’re in. When I transferred to MIT in 2014, I imagined people bragging about being from MIT or Harvard, but that wasn't the case. Our cadets tend to focus on being a team rather than boast about their individual accomplishments, which is why we work so well and accomplish so much.” 

The strong relationship between Air Force ROTC and all five participating universities ensures the cadets receive the highest quality training and development. “The excellence and achievements of the Cadet Wing, recognized by this award, wouldn’t be possible without the fantastic support we receive from all of the detachment’s affiliated institutions — particularly MIT as our host institution,” said Lieutenant Colonel Sheryl “Double” Ott, commander of Detachment 365 and professor of aerospace studies.

The detachment has consistently received national recognition. At the end of the 2015-2016 academic year, 100 percent of the students were on AFROTC scholarship. With a 96-perecent selection rate, students compete favorably for flying career fields upon commissioning, including positions as pilots and navigators.

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