UChicago becomes home to regional ROTC detachment

UChicago and Air Force leaders gather to celebrate opening with ceremony, flyover

Students and families arriving for Homecoming on the morning of Oct. 13 were greeted by a KC-135 “Stratotanker” flying overhead from the 434th Air Refueling Wing. 

The flyover was part of a ceremony that marked the official activation of the Air Force Reserve Officer Training Corps (AFROTC) Detachment 195 at the University of Chicago. Cadets joined leaders from the Department of the Air Force, University and members of the civic community to celebrate the partnership that will provide a place for students from more than a dozen area schools to train throughout their undergraduate years. 

“I’m thrilled to be in Hyde Park today to celebrate a new home for the cadets of Detachment 195 and recognize the commitment of the University of Chicago’s leadership in the program’s continued success,” said Alex Wagner, Assistant Secretary of the Air Force Manpower and Reserve Affairs, at the event. “Partnerships like these are critical to developing the next generation of America’s Air Force and Space Force leaders, and the University of Chicago’s strong investment in the Detachment helps the entire Chicagoland area better connect with and understand our Nation’s military.”

AFROTC works to recruit, educate and commission officer candidates as the Air and Space Force's future leaders; valuing the diversity of people, thought, and ideas all in support of national defense. This detachment, originally established in 1951, is the only AFROTC program in the greater Chicago region.

“I think we’re very lucky to now have the resources that UChicago can offer us, in a central location that all schools can access,” said Sophia Ktsanes, a second-year in the College and AFROTC cadet. “I always knew I wanted to work in government, and the opportunity to start engaging in that process and training now as an undergraduate has been great for me.” 

Amadis Davis, a third-year in the College, has been an AFROTC cadet since she arrived on campus and credits the program with not only connecting her with a supportive community, but also giving her a different perspective on her college experience. 

“I’m going in with an expectation of service after I graduate,” said Davis, who played the National Anthem on the trumpet during the ceremony. “My studies at the College are liberated a bit from that post-grad ‘needing to find a job’ grind – I’m learning how to be a good leader through the Air Force, and at the same time have the time to dive deep into my studies in the Humanities.”

Currently, more than 70 students take part in Chicago's AFROTC program – 20 of them UChicago students. Before Detachment 195 moved to Hyde Park, students had to travel to other locations across the city for their training.

Denver Barrows, AB’13, remembers this well. He was the only student from UChicago who participated in AFROTC all four years, and remembers feeling the disconnect between his ROTC and College experiences. 

“I think it’s a great source of motivation and empowerment for cadets that they can outwardly portray their seriousness and commitment to this program on campus much like other students have that opportunity to display commitment to their interests and professional aspirations,” said Barrows. “The lessons I learned about leadership through the Air Force and ROTC – an understanding of hard work and leading diverse teams to success – is a framework for how I execute day in and day out today.”

After graduating from UChicago, Barrows served on active duty for seven years, and still serves in the Air Force Reserves today. 

Learn more information about the Air Force ROTC program here.