Cut above: ASU military students earn leadership awards

Major Michelle Bravo

It was an early morning wake-up for hundreds of ASU Reserve Officer Training Corps students April 16, when the 2015 Joint Awards Ceremony began at 6:30 a.m.

“I don’t even get up this early to play golf,” joked Jim Callander, an award sponsor and presenter with the United Services Automobile Association and retired Air Force chief master sergeant. “But I do get up for you.”

The awards ceremony, held inside Neeb Hall on the Tempe campus, recognized ROTC students from the entire ASU cadet corps for their leadership and academic achievements in the past year. Veterans groups, community organizations and businesses presented more than 50 awards.

Callander praised the students for their commitment to serve in uniform and become part of the less than 1 percent of Americans to “wear the cloth of the nation.”  

“You’re what America is all about,” he said. 

One of those students was Nicole Felix, an Air Force ROTC cadet from Sierra Vista. Felix serves as an ROTC squadron commander within the cadet wing, responsible for student field training – a “boot camp” for newer cadets. She earned the Reserve Officers Association award for leadership and had some pointers for success.

“Showing leadership, initiative, hard work and dedication definitely gets recognized before anything else,” said Felix, an ASU junior majoring in meteorology. 

Junior Meghan Treece, a Navy ROTC midshipman and Veterans of Foreign Wars award winner, agrees that initiative and involvement are important. The Arizona native is the color guard commander for her battalion and has been active in leading physical training and academics. Treece also values honest dialogue.

“I’m a very active member in the battalion, but I also have good communication with [the] staff,” said Treece, who is majoring in Chinese and aspires to get into Navy aviation. “I know them pretty well and don’t have a problem going up to them to talk.”

Army ROTC student Gerald Prater also captured an award from the Veterans of Foreign Wars. But his story is different. Although an ASU student, Prater is also an active-duty Army sergeant on a special commissioning program that will allow him to go from the enlisted to the officer ranks after graduation. His experience in the Army and in Afghanistan has placed him in a unique position to help develop his peers.

“Thankfully all these cadets appreciate what I bring to the table,” said Prater, a junior and a political science major. “So they routinely ask me for help, and I try to help as much as I can.”

Prater is humble and admits that despite his Army time, he too can benefit from others.

“One thing that I think is very important is for young officers and young enlisted soldiers to seek mentorship,” he said. “Even I feel that I am constantly in need of mentorship and development, and when cadets come up to me and ask me, I appreciate the fact they’re trying to pursue something for themselves.”

To some, the Joint Awards Ceremony was about more than just achievement recognition.

“The youth of America need to realize that we value the effort they’re putting into maintaining a democracy,” said Rosanne Trujillo, a retired Army officer representing the Military Order of the World Wars East Valley Chapter, a nonpartisan organization that fosters patriotism and democracy. “Because you’ve heard the cliche that ‘freedom isn’t free,’ and just because we were formed back in 1776 doesn’t mean that we’re not facing different factions that are trying to shake our foundation.” 

ASU offers Army, Navy and Air Force ROTC programs. The cadet corps consists of about 500 students. Marine Corps commissioning is part of the Navy program.