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Air University commander experiences AFROTC Field Training

Lt. Gen. Hecker smiles while talking to cadets.

Lt. Gen. James Hecker, Air University commander, talks to the Air Force Reserve Officer Training Corps Field Training mission support staff at Camp Shelby Joint Forces Training Center, Mississippi, July 13, 2021. The visit allowed Hecker to experience training for cadets and get feedback on the multi-phase encampment. (U. S. Air Force photo by Cadet Training Assistant Marissa Buckner)

Camp Shelby, Miss.-- Lt. Gen. James Hecker, commander and president of Air University, visited Camp Shelby Joint Forces Training Center, Mississippi, July 13 to observe the training and evaluation of cadets at Air Force Reserve Officer Training Corps Field Training 2021.

Though the training usually takes place at Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama, a combination of factors including impacts to the 2020 training cycle from COVID-19 led to the decision to move the encampment to Camp Shelby. Hecker was accompanied by commanders and stakeholders in the training enterprise.

During his remarks to staff, Hecker discussed the importance of continuing the mission of Field Training.

“Though Field Training is only a two-week course out of a four-year program, we all know how important those two weeks are,” he said. “We took a hard look at it and decided those two weeks were too valuable to waive.”

AFROTC Field Training is a congressionally mandated event that evaluates a cadet’s readiness to continue in the program in the ROTC Professional Officer Course. This event usually takes place between a cadet’s sophomore and junior years in college. The training takes cadets out of their comfort zones physically, mentally and emotionally while testing their leadership, followership and team building skills.

Col. Paul Tombarge, Field Training 2021 commander, gave the visitors a behind-the-scenes look at efforts to make the training possible. He noted the dedication and sacrifice from the instructors and support staff.

“We are all here as part of one team for one mission … to provide a safe, effective, standardized Field Training to cadets,” Tombarge said. “I am impressed by what we have accomplished together and how we are learning and getting better every day. I look forward to continuing to meet our shared challenges head on as we work to produce the leaders of tomorrow.”

The visitors then travelled to key training locations, including the cadet dorms, supply warehouse and cadet leadership reaction courses. They also observed in-processing of new trainees arriving for the last of six encampments for a day known within the encampment as “Training Day Zero.”

Afterward, Hecker took the opportunity to have lunch with 15 cadet training assistants—prior graduates of Field Training who volunteered to return to support operations and staff. The cadets connected with active duty officers and shared their background and experiences.

Overall, Hecker and the other visiting distinguished visitors received a look into the execution of Field Training 2021. They interacted with the personnel who have been working hard to make the entire operation possible.

“I want to thank each and every person here. After coming out here today, we see the progress,” Hecker said. “There are great things being done here today.”

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