Currently, the program consists of approximately 130 cadets. Twenty to 25 of these cadets are commissioned each year.
Fetsch said there are approximately 250 Auburn alumni in active duty including a general and more than 20 colonels. He also said there are more who have served on active duty and are now in the reserves, specifically two generals who visit Auburn frequently, one is in the Air Force reserve and one is in the National Guard.
Fetsch said Auburn’s AFROTC is highly respected by the United States Air Force.
“I’m not an Auburn graduate, but I wish I was,” Fetsch said. “I tell our students, […] this is a good school, you are surrounded by good students and faculty and that makes all the difference. When you join the Air Force it’s the same idea, to put a bunch of good people together and good things tend to happen.”
He said that Auburn’s AFROTC program has a variety of majors, which contributes to a lot of diversity within the company, which is important because everyone learns from each other.
Fetsch said that he equates the AFROTC program to other prominent University programs because it is an additional way to enhance the students’ academic experiences at Auburn.
Fetsch also said this program is different from basic training because its approach allows students to have a normal college experience while being trained for the military.
“I went from being your typical college kid to having to travel across the country to California to work in nuclear missile training,” said Captain Donald Thomas, Auburn AFROTC graduate. “It hit me that I wasn’t a college kid anymore. I was about to be a 22-year-old Air Force officer watching over our entire Nuclear Intercontinental Ballistic Missile Fleet.”
Thomas also said Auburn helped him prepare for his current career.
“Auburn taught me how to manage my time wisely,” Thomas said. “Between my course work, ROTC and my job I had to learn that prioritizing my responsibilities is key to being successful as a student.”
Auburn graduates are double the national rate of being designated distinguished, according to Fetsch.
Two years after women were accepted into the AFROTC, Auburn’s own Leslie Holley became the first woman to be commissioned through AFROTC in 1971. She later became the Air Force’s first female three-star general.
Capt. Justin Andress said being a part of the Auburn family and feeling that invaluable sense of community is what means the most to him as an Auburn graduate.
Andress also said that he has had several ‘War Eagle’ moments while on duty abroad.
“We landed at The 379th Air Expeditionary Wing in Southwest Asia and stayed for a night before our final 4-hour leg of a 20-hour trip,” Andress said. “The next morning, I met two of my former roommates that were deployed there. Since they’re both tanker pilots, we all shared the typical comments of hoping to see each other airborne during our deployment. One of them, George Clark, was the co-pilot of the KC-135 that took us from the 379th AEW to Afghanistan. He photographed me with the Auburn flag I had since college.”
According to Andress, this photograph was an enormous hit with the media.
“I don’t think there was a single radio transmission made that didn’t have a solid ‘War Eagle’ on the end of it,” Andress said. “Everyone in the six ship was jealous of our Auburn pride.”