By Airman 1st Class C. Todd Lopez
MISAWA AIR BASE, Japan (July 14, 2000) -- Three enlisted, two airmen and a technical sergeant, have earned the right to trade in their blue stripes for the opportunity to be leaders, as Air Force second lieutenants. The three were selected for ROTC in the Spring Board
Tech. Sgt. Christopher L. Reese, 35th Maintenance Squadron, Munitions Flight is one of those selected to tear the stripes from his BDUs and turn them in for gold bars.
Reese, a twelve year technical sergeant, responsible for handling and accountability of aircraft munitions here at Misawa Air Base, had his sight set on leadership from an early point in his enlisted career.
"When I first came in as enlisted, I wanted to become a chief," said Reese. "I have been TDY a lot of places; a lot of people look at how I handle people and tell me I should become an officer. I always said I wanted to be a chief, but they say 'you will be a better officer.'"
With the encouragement of his contemporaries and supervisors, Reese made the decision to join the ranks of the Air Forces Officer Corps.
"They said 'you will be able to lead, you have the potential, why not stretch that potential?'" said Reese. "I said they may be right, if they can see it in me, I need to look a little closer at myself. With God on my side, I put the package in and tried it out."
Reese initiated the steps to earn him a spot in the Air Force's Professional Officer Course Early Release Program. The program allows enlisted members such as Reese, with some college, to apply for an early release from the Air Force to enter AFROTC at a college of their choice. After attaining their degree, program participants return to the Air Force with a commission as a second lieutenant.
"You separate from the Air Force for two years, lose all your benefits, all you have is the GI bill," said Reese. "You go to the school of your choice with the ROTC course. You have to finish your degree and keep a GPA of C+ or above. Then you come back in with your commission."
Reese seems undaunted by the challenges waiting for him at Florida International University, where he will pursue a major in business management. "I can't fail," said Reese. "The door is wide open. God opened it for me. I just have to do my part, but the door is open for me."
Senior Airman John Fogle, 301st Intelligence Squadron will also be joining the ranks of commissioned Air Force leaders in the coming years. Like Reese, he too has always had plans to be a leader, and to do more.
"I actually thought about being an officer even before I came in the Air Force," said Fogle. "My father is a chief master sergeant. He said that this would be the way to go. I came in enlisted first because I wanted to test that out. But I as soon as I got out of technical school I was going to try out for commissioning programs."
After filling out the correct paperwork with the Base Education Office, and ensuring all requirements were met, Fogle was accepted into the Airman Scholarship and Commissioning Program. The program offers active duty airmen the opportunity to become an officer and earn an undergraduate degree as an Air Force ROTC cadet. Air Force ROTC Type II scholarships are awarded to those accepted into the program.
Fogle, who has been in the Air Force for nearly three years now, plans to study physics at the University of Arizona, and is fairly sure of how he is going to apply that once he slips back into his blues.
"I'd like to take on more responsibility, as a leader...to be in charge of a squadron one day," said Fogle. And I definitely want to do research and development. I know I can do that as an officer, and with a degree."
Airmen interested in becoming an officer through one of the many commissioning programs available, should visit the base education office.
"Now is a good time for commissioning," said Jeffrey Allen, 35th Mission Support Squadron Education Office commander. "Career wise, being an officer is significant for some. There is a financial impact, officers do make more money than enlisted troops. You can broaden your career. I think first of all you need to visit the Education Office and get information about all programs available, and talk with a counselor. Now is a great time for enlisted people to compete for these enlisted slots."