MSU ROTC event celebrates Air Force milestone

— Roughly 160 people gathered in the Student Union Building Ballroom at Montana State University on Saturday to celebrate a milestone for the U.S. Air Force as well as the community that supports Montana’s only college-level Air Force Reserve Officer Training Corps detachment.

Over 70 MSU ROTC student cadets joined alumni, Air Force officers and university administrators at the Air Force Ball for an evening of dinner, dancing and speeches, including by MSU ROTC alumnus Brig. Gen. Troy Daniels, to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the military service.

“It’s a good opportunity for us cadets to hear words of wisdom from leaders in the Air Force and get their perspective on where the Air Force has come from and what they’re looking for in the next generation of Air Force officers,” said Cadet Addie Grainger, a junior majoring in mechanical engineering.

Similar events are held annually at Air Force bases around the world, providing a chance for the Air Force community to bond and celebrate outside the formality of its normal operations, Grainger said, and this year the cadets wanted to organize a ball to mark the anniversary.

Lt. Col. Lance Ratterman, professor in MSU’s Air and Space Studies department and commander of ROTC Detachment 450 housed in MSU’s Norm Asbjornson College of Engineering, commended the students for organizing the event.

"The cadets did the work to make this happen, gaining valuable leadership and planning experience," Ratterman said. "The 75th anniversary is a major milestone, and we didn’t want it to slip by without celebrating with those who are so invested in the success of these students."

Detachment 450 is the only college-level Air Force ROTC program in Montana. ROTC is an educational program designed to provide the opportunity to become an officer in the U.S. Air Force or Space Force while completing a bachelor’s degree. MSU students can enroll in ROTC as freshmen without any commitment to serve in the military, Ratterman explained. Cadets take ROTC classes and participate in weekly physical training in addition to their MSU courses. The majority of cadets earn some level of scholarship while in the program and upon graduation from MSU start active duty careers in the Air Force or Space Force.

“ROTC cadets at MSU are, first and foremost, full-time college students,” Ratterman said. “We have an abundance of scholarship and other monetary incentives, and upon graduating there are many exciting and rewarding career opportunities," including in engineering, logistics and other roles that are similar to jobs in the civilian sector along with many that are very unique, he said.

Grainger, who grew up in an Air Force family and lived for a time in Montana before graduating from high school in Japan, joined ROTC for career stability, she said. “You know you’ll have a job after you graduate,” she said. “It’s also a good opportunity to get leadership training.”

“I continue to be amazed in the quality of our ROTC cadets at MSU, both as students and as individuals,” said Yves Idzerda, dean of MSU’s College of Letters and Science, who attended the event. “This is another way that we can honor members of our military community and our students. I would like to congratulate Lt. Col. Lance Ratterman on his leadership and training of such fine young men and women who are willing to sacrifice so much for others.”

Ratterman is one of five active-duty airmen who provide oversight, guidance and mentoring to the MSU cadets. There are currently more than 80 active cadets at the university.

Established as a separate branch of the U.S armed forces in the wake of World War II, the Air Forceis rooted in an embrace of innovation and change, a theme of the anniversary as the Air Force looks ahead to its next 75 years, Ratterman said. Part of that mission is investing in the next generation of leaders, which is a basic purpose of ROTC, he added.

"We train and teach cadets to become leaders,” Ratterman said.