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AFMC commander reminisces with former ROTC instructors

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Jason Lake
  • Air University Public Affairs
Gen. Bruce Carlson said he still remembers the first time his ROTC detachment's senior aerospace science instructor walked into the room.

"We all stood nervously at attention and he said to us, 'I want to get to know each of you on a first name basis ... call me sir," General Carlson recalled with a chuckle.

The former Det. 420 - University of Minnesota Duluth cadet was reunited with two of his ROTC instructors after 36 years during a visit to Maxwell Air Force Base April 17.

General Carlson, currently commander of Air Force Materiel Command, met with retired Lt. Cols. William Desmond Jr. and Philip Alker who came from nearby Prattville, Ala., to talk with their former cadet.

General Carlson credits his successful rise to the Air Force's top leadership tier because of the lessons he learned during his time spent in the ROTC commissioning program.

"I came from a small town and had no military background," General Carlson explained. "Whatever [training] I got, I got from them. They were remarkable examples of what it meant to be a professional officer."

"I think all of us who worked at the detachment knew that the general would have a future as a leader," said Mr. Desmond, who had more than a decade of experience training young Airmen as a former military training instructor. "He is the same [person] today as he was 36 years ago. Listening to him talk [to Air War College students] brought back so many memories of the way he presented himself."

General Carlson, a native of Hibbing, Minn., was also a distinguished graduate of his ROTC class.

"Part of training was speaking and he had a wonderful gift for that," Mr. Desmond added. "When he prepared himself for a presentation it was sheer perfection - every detail was covered."

"I taught him how to speak," Mr. Alker jokingly fired back as the three reminisced together in the Air War College lounge.

Despite being charged with managing the research, development, testing and acquisition of the Air Force's premier weapons systems, General Carlson has not forgotten his roots at Det. 420.

"I have great memories of my time as a cadet," he said. "We worked hard, but we also had a great time."

Over the last few years, he has revisited his alma mater detachment on several occasions - including a dining-in ceremony last fall.

"That's an inspiration for all the young [cadets] attending the University of Minnesota Duluth," explained Mr. Desmond. "To see one of their own become successful, that's a lot of motivation and inspiration."

General Carlson said cadets can lead a successful Air Force career by simply sticking to their ROTC core lessons and broadening themselves through experience.

"Try to realize that when you graduate, you don't need to be the smartest Airmen in the Air Force," he explained. "What's important is that you know what it means to be a professional officer and always follow the Air Force Core Values."