by TSgt. Dan Heaton
127th Wing Public Affairs
5/6/2013 - SELFRIDGE AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, Mich. -- Editor's
note: First in a two-part series about Air Force-supported youth
programs near Selfridge Air National Guard Base, Mich.
Can a combat veteran and first sergeant in the U.S. Marine Corps and a
high school student both have the same ideas about leadership?
Consider these comments, one from the 18-year veteran of the Marines and one from a high school junior:
"I learned when to express authority and when not to. I learned there is
more than one way to be a leader and at different times you need to use
"The program gave me different experiences with different types of
leaders with different styles of leadership. (It) broadened my awareness
of where I wanted to go and what I wanted to be."
The first comment is from Nicholas Babu. He is in the 11th grade at
Anchor Bay High School near New Baltimore, Mich. In the next school
year, he is slated to serve as the cadet corps commander of the Air
Force Junior Reserve Officers Training Corps, JROTC, at the school. The
second is from 1st Sgt. David Auwen. He was the first cadet corps
commander at Anchor Bay High when the AFROTC program was re-established
there in the early 1990s. Today, he is the first sergeant of
headquarters company of the 1st Battalion, 24th Marine Regiment, based
at nearby Selfridge Air National Guard Base.
"Being a cadet really set me up for success early in my Marine Corps
career," said Auwen, who deployed to Iraq twice. "I had already been
mentored and learned from my mistakes as a JROTC cadet. That really
helped me be a better Marine."
That kind of talk is music to the ears of retired Air Force Col. Jeffrey
Carrothers and retired Master Sgt. Steve Wratchford, who serve as the
instructors of the AFJROTC program at Anchor Bay. Not, they both quickly
point out, just because Auwen is wearing a military uniform, but
because he is successful in his chosen profession.
"We are not building up young people for military service, but we are
building better citizens for America," said Wratchford, who has been an
aerospace science instructor at Anchor Bay for 20 years. "Dave's doing
it in uniform, but the goal is to make leaders in their community. We
don't push kids to the military. We don't get anything extra if one of
our students enlists. We work to instill leadership skills so the
students can be a success in whatever lies ahead."
Just over 100 students at Anchor Bay High School are part of the AFROTC
program. The students all attend one class period every day in AFROTC
and are able to participate in a number of other programs run by the
cadet corps, including community service projects, field trips, drill
team competitions and an annual summer visit to a high ropes confidence
Being a cadet has helped Mae Stell - a 12th grade student and the
current cadet corps commander - develop her own plan for after high
school. Stell will attend Xavier University in Cincinatti, Ohio, and
intends to be part of the Army ROTC program there, which will help pay
for her education. She hopes to use that education to become a nurse in
the military after she finishes her schooling.
"Being a cadet in the program gave me confidence in myself and in my own
abilities," Stell said. "Through the ropes course, meeting new people,
the different activities that we do. The corps has opened my eyes to
realize what opportunities even existed."
Stell, like all of the cadets in the program, has worked closely with
Carrothers to formulate her plans for her life after high school.
"All of my seniors meet with me several times throughout the year - and
the younger students, too - and we talk about 'OK, what's the dream?' I
have three criteria for them: it has to be something legal, something
they enjoy and something they will be good at," Carrothers said. "And
then we start working with that student to show them the steps to
reaching their goals and to move toward their dreams."
Carrothers estimates that in recent years around 25 percent of the
graduates of the JROTC program at Anchor Bay have served in the military
in one capacity or another after high school, but he stresses that
military service is just one option for students.
"Mae Stell is a good example of what we try to help each student
accomplish. Not because she wants to go into the military, but because
she has a dream and it is a good, realistic dream and we are able to
help her move one step closer to that dream," said Carrothers, sitting
in his classroom at the high school after the final bell had rung on a
While Carrothers and Wratchford - who both retired after more than 20
years of active duty service in the Air Force - work as full-time
instructors at the school, they also rely on the program's extended
family for support.
"That's really what it is, is a family," said Technical Sgt. Ninette
LeRay, during a recent classroom visit. LeRay was the second corps
commander at Anchor Bay - she followed Auwen - and today is a command
post controller with the 127th Wing of the Michigan Air National Guard,
also at Selfridge.
Both LeRay and Auwen serve as judges and inspectors when the Anchor Bay
corps hosts an annual drill team competition in October.
"I come back year after year and I see the kids as they progress through
the program. They seem to stand a little taller and you can see their
self-esteem develop," she said. "What they have in the cadet corps is
the same thing Dave and I had, a place where you can belong, where you
are a team and people care about you."
LeRay's late father was a member of the Michigan Air National Guard at
Selfridge and she grew up wanting to be part of an organization where
people were valued.
"I found that first in the ROTC and then when I joined the military
myself," she said. "You're part of a team where people want and expect
you to advance and succeed."
Cadet Emily Johnson said she originally joined the cadet corps at Anchor
Bay primarily because she was interested in using the program as a
vehicle toward earning college scholarship funds.
"But I found out it is like being a part of a big family," she said.
"There's all different sorts of people, but we all get along well,
because we are all part of the same team."