Behind the Uniform: These Are the Bronx Bombers

by MICHEVI DUFFLART & ALYSSA VELAZQUEZ, Web Editor & Production Editor

Manhattan College is a unique place for a number of reasons. One of these reasons includes the multiple areas of study which students can explore, giving each student the opportunity to find their best match. From students studying in the communications department to become journalists and reporters, to those studying biology and science to move on to the medical field; at MC there is a place for anyone.

There is even a place for those interested in serving in a branch of the United States Armed Forces.

Home to one of over 100 Air Force Reserve Officer Training Corps, or AFROTC units in the U.S., Manhattan College offers students from neighboring areas in New York City, Long Island and parts of Westchester the opportunity to serve as officers in the United States Air Force.

For context, about 10 percent of people in the Air Force enter as officers, whereas the other 90 percent enter as enlisted, meaning that they likely joined through a recruiting office and then went to training camp. Therefore AFROTC is unique in that it allows college students in the program, or cadets as they are officially known, to enter the Air Force as an officer. This immediately ranks them higher than any enlisted person.

However, this higher ranking only comes with a great deal of training and responsibility as a cadet.

The first two years of training in the AFROTC is known as the General Military Course, or GMC, then the following two years of training is known as the Professional Officer Course, or POC. Entering as a freshman, the goal for the first two years is to earn a slot at Field Training or FT.

One student who has been apart of the AFROTC program since the beginning of his sophomore year and has recently completed FT is Thomas Glynn.

Thomas Glynn is currently a junior and is studying management in the O’Malley School of Business. While being a resident advisor in Chrysostom Hall and going to his classes throughout the week, Glynn is also a flight commander within the AFROTC program at the college.

Glynn’s role as a flight commander is to ensure that the GMC cadets know the necessary information and practices and are prepared for FT, which typically happens between sophomore and junior year. The class in which cadets learn these practices and procedures is known as Leadership Laboratory, or LLAB and is led and brought to fruition by POC cadets.

This form of education is unique in the sense that it is entirely managed by the students who have completed their basic level of training in the program. With this, they now have the responsibility to ensure that the cadets in the GMC receive all the knowledge that is required of them.

Major Joseph Carpentieri, the Operations Officer of the AFROTC at the college emphasizes this point by stating, “What makes this program so incredible and so amazing is that everything is run by the cadets. So we call them the [POC] cadets. These are the juniors and seniors who have been here and attended [FT]. They developed the entire program and they execute it as well.”

Some of the things that Glynn mentions in particular in regards to his role as flight commander is to “make sure that [the cadets] can do drill, which is marching around, that they know how to say things correctly, they know exactly what words to use, [and that] they’re studying the things they need to be studying.”

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Glynn going through drills in Smith Auditorium during the fifth LLAB of the Fall 2018 semester with fellow cadets. Detachment 560 Bronx Bombers Facebook / Courtesy

Therefore within LLAB, cadets learn leadership skills, basic drill and ceremonies, and foster a sense of teamwork and comradery. In addition to LLAB, cadets must also complete eight semesters of Aerospace Studies classes which cover topics in Air Force history and heritage, management, and leadership.

These classes along with physical training which is typically held in Van Cortlandt Park, are taught by the cadre, a group of commissioned and noncommissioned officers who are responsible for training the rest of the unit. In AFROTC, units at colleges are called detachments, Manhattan is known as Detachment 560.

Carpentieri currently teaches courses in Foundations of the U.S. Air Force. After graduating from Det. 560 himself in 2008, Carpentieri entered the Air Force and worked as a Security Services Officer. However, after serving for about 7 years, he returned to educate the next generation.

“Millenials are extremely hard working individuals, who are very smart, very tech savvy, which is great for streamlining process and making sure our checks and balances are in order. So I am very excited to see how great they’re going to be in the Air Force,” said Carpentieri.

These characteristics that Carpentieri describes are exemplified through Glynn who has learned a substantial amount throughout his semesters in AFROTC and improved greatly as a leader, “All the time I’m in class and I go okay I’m gonna use that in ROTC and I’ll go and try it, some things work, some things don’t [but] I’m constantly trying new things.”

Other ways cadets can try new things include participating in extra-curricular AFROTC activities, such as the Honor Guard and the Arnold Air Society, which is a community service organization. These activities typically occur at the end of the day when the cadets have completed their classes.

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Cadets participating in the Honor Guard, one of the activities offered by the AFROTC program at MC. Detachment 560 Bronx Bombers Facebook / Courtesy

Outside of the classroom, the cadets also spend time with their fellow peers. Cristina Catana, a sophomore civil engineering major and second year cadet in the AFROTC states, “Your friends are your biggest support group. Everyone is there to help everyone else, which is a really beautiful thing to see such bonds grow.”

Glynn emphasizes this point saying that the AFROTC cadets are all his friends. Thus their connection in the program goes beyond being fellow cadets, but also friends who spend time together when the day is over. One thing that Glynn and his friends do after a Friday of class and training, is head over to the local diner and share a meal together.

ROTC truly is a special program because it provides students with the unique opportunity to study one thing in school and at the same time, be commissioned as a second lieutenant in the US Air Force. The ceremony that makes this official is the commissioning ceremony which is held every year in June.

“After the seniors graduate we do a commissioning ceremony for them and that’s the one where they actually become a second lieutenant. They become an officer in the United States Air Force and every year that event is a very special event … it’s a very proud moment for everyone and exciting to see [the former cadets] start off their Air Force career [as officers],” said Carpentieri.

For these two cadets, Catana and Glynn, they’re looking forward to serving their country in the years following their graduation from Manhattan College and the AFROTC.

Catana states that her “parents grew up in a communist country and the stories they told me only made me more appreciative of what I have here in America, so the best way to thank this country for that, in my opinion, was to serve it in [America’s] uniform.”

By being a part of the AFROTC program at the college, Catana has the opportunity to find the perfect blend between what she is passionate about and to explore the things that she didn’t know she loved doing.

For Glynn, he is looking forward to becoming a pilot in the Air Force and states that having this opportunity is definitely an experience he is looking forward to. Upon graduation Glynn along with Catana will go directly into the Air Force. As Glynn states, “I’ve already signed the papers, so I’m in it to win it.”

Yet what’s most important is what these cadets learned and continue to learn in their time in AFROTC. For Catana she says, “The most important [lesson] I’ve learned is from another cadet who told me that there are only three outcomes in life, ‘yes’, ‘not right now’, and ‘there’s something better coming.’ ROTC teaches you that you have to fail in order to grow and that a failure isn’t the end of the line. It teaches you to celebrate your own victories and learn from your mistakes.”