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The latest class of 'Flying Devils' is ready for takeoff


Six graduating cadets in the Air Force ROTC digitally placed in front of Palm Walk on ASU's Tempe campus.

From left: Joshua Bennion, Leah Faiella, Andrew Taller, Giavonna Sabatini, Steff Urbano and Anthony Jakubczyk will graduate from ASU this spring. Graphic by John Stobbe/ASU. Portraits courtesy Air Force ROTC Detachment 025.

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May 02, 2024

Earlier this year, the U.S. Air Force ROTC named Arizona State University's Detachment 025 as the best large ROTC detachment in the nation. Its most recent class of graduates is another testament to the program’s exceptional training and mentorship.

Meet six of the 19 graduating cadets in Air Force ROTC Detachment 025 — Joshua Bennion, Leah Faiella, Anthony Jakubczyk, Giavonna Sabatini, Andrew Taller and Steff Urbano — also known as the Flying Devils, who have successfully launched careers in the U.S. Air Force and Space Force.  

Joshua Bennion in front of Old Main.

Joshua Bennion

Major: BS in political science
Minor: Military leadership

Bennion found his passion for political science while living in Germany during the 2021 federal election for chancellor — the first time in history that an incumbent did not seek re-election. That event alongside the unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic made him want to learn more about how policies are developed and implemented in challenging times. 

ASU gave Bennion the flexibility he needed to reach his academic goals.

“I chose ASU because they were a global online institution that I could attend while serving overseas and then I transferred to an in-person student once I came back stateside,” he said.

Now graduating with a degree in political science, Bennion will be commissioned as a pilot in the Air Force and will participate in the highly selective Euro-NATO Joint Jet Pilot Training Program — the world's only multinationally manned and managed flying program that trains combat pilots for the intergovernmental military alliance NATO.

Bennion is grateful for the many opportunities he had at ASU. “My favorite memory is getting to fly in the back seat of an F-16. It is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” he said.

Leah Faiella stands in front of a large white door with windows.

Leah Faiella

Major: BAS in project management

After attending three different colleges, Faiella found a flexible and rigorous online program at ASU. She chose a degree in project management to help inform her job as a program manager in the Air Force. 

“I only took one or two classes at first, but the skills and lessons I learned were immediately applicable to my job, to the point where my productivity and work quality noticeably improved,” she said. “It was then that I realized the sheer number of ways that project management could make my job and life easier as a whole and decided to pursue it as my major.”

Faiella received the Department of Aerospace Studies Dean's Medal, which is awarded to the highest-achieving graduates throughout The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. Some of her favorite memories of the Air Force ROTC program include visiting the Air Force Academy, a free ride on a “Huey” helicopter and studying with colleagues in the basement of the Hayden Library.

After graduation, she will be a second lieutenant and logistics readiness officer at her first duty station in the Air Force. In this role, Faiella will prepare equipment and teams to fulfill Air Force missions.

Anthony Jakubczyk holds two "forks up" on Palm Walk.

Anthony Jakubczyk

Major: BSE in mechanical engineering
Minor: Military leadership

An Arizona native, Jakubczyk initially chose ASU because he received an Air Force ROTC scholarship for any in-state institution. His experience at ASU has had a profound impact on his life. 

In his sophomore year, his aerospace studies professor, Maj. Melinda Santos, taught him the words of Pastor Charles Swindoll: “Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you react to it.”

“I learned that life is what you make of it. You can control a few things in the world: your attitude and your effort are two of those things,” Jakubczyk said. “It changed my view on a lot of things.”

After visiting his brothers in Europe post graduation, Jakubczyk will become a pilot in the Air Force.

“AFROTC is a fantastic way to make friends and connections while intelligently investing in your future,” he said. "The opportunities you have in this program can be life-changing.”

Giavonna Sabatini sits in Air Force ROTC gear on the edge of a fountain.

Giavonna Sabatini

Major: BS in microbiology (medical microbiology)
Minor: Military leadership
Certificate: Evolutionary medicine

Growing up in a small farm town in Pennsylvania, Sabatini wasn’t sure it made sense to attend an out-of-state institution. But her father had other ideas.

“You need to get out in the world,” he said. “You're bigger than these people and bigger than this town. There's no more room left here for you to grow." 

She accepted her scholarship to ASU later that day, and Detachment 025 has been a highlight throughout her undergraduate experience — from learning from her favorite instructors, to meeting like-minded cadets, to gaining critical life and leadership skills. 

“The adaptability I had fostered throughout ROTC immensely helped my situation as I hit many roadblocks that would have incapacitated me in the past,” she said. “I learned how to still be an effective worker, student, friend and family member while also going through my personal situations.”

Now, Sabatini is preparing to become an intelligence officer in the Air Force and is considering going through Special Operations Surgical Teams selection after completing medical school. 

“Hopefully, I will be able to travel around third-world countries that have medical facilities that are absent of the necessary number of physicians needed,” she said.

Andrew Taller stands in front of the fountain in front of Old Main.

Andrew Taller

Major: BS in political science
Minors: History, military leadership
Certificate: Political history and leadership

Taller chose ASU for its status as an R1 institution and the reputation of its Air Force ROTC program as the best in the nation. 

“On the surface, this seems like an easily dismissed statement akin to an advertisement that reads ‘best cup of coffee’ or ‘best slice of pizza.’ However, from my four years of experience, I can confirm that this statement is true,” he said. 

Taller’s favorite memory of being a Flying Devil is volunteering as a cadet training assistant at the summer 2024 field training at Maxwell Air Force Base in Alabama. There he was selected to be a public affairs assistant and photographer, and found it to be one of the most rewarding experiences of his life — not to mention the perfect launchpad for his next career move.

This summer, Taller will become a public affairs officer in the Air Force, where he will act as a journalist and liaison in coordinating social media, press releases and media relations. 

“Even as a junior officer, you have a lot of responsibility due to the image that you are entrusted to uphold, and while I’m certainly a bit nervous for the challenge, I couldn’t be more excited for the opportunity,” he said.

Steff Urbano smiles in front of Palm Walk.

Steff Urbano

Major: BA in global studies

Urbano was stationed as an intelligence analyst at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Tucson, Arizona, when she decided to make the move to Tempe and attend ASU for its exceptional Air Force ROTC program. 

While enrolled at ASU, Urbano met Col. Bruce Pagel, a retired judge advocate in the U.S. Army, who provided mentorship and guidance at a critical juncture in her studies.

“We identified my real love was policy,” Urbano says. “He’s also coaching me for a high-level cyber policy competition in Washington, D.C., which has opened up a whole new world of opportunities.”

After spending two months visiting England, Scotland and Ireland, Urbano will make the move from Air Force to Space Force as an intelligence officer. (ASU became a university partner of the U.S. Space Force in 2022.

“Space is the new frontier of technology, policy and intelligence, and I want to be at the forefront of that innovation,” she said.

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