ROTC Cadets Hear Words Of Wisdom From Air Force Deputy Secretary

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Deputy Assistant Air Force Secretary John Truesdell, a Baylor alumnus, poses with some of Baylor's ROTC cadets.
Chris Hansen / Baylor Photography
Oct. 28, 2002

Baylor's ROTC program has seen a number of its former cadets rise high in the ranks of the U.S. Air Force. One of those alumni, Deputy Assistant Air Force Secretary John Truesdell, recently returned to campus to speak with current cadets about a career in the military.

A career Air Force officer who spent 30 years on active duty and retired with the rank of colonel, Truesdell serves as deputy assistant secretary for reserve affairs and is responsible for coordinating, planning and establishing policy for the Air National Guard, Air Force Reserve and Civil Air Patrol. He was appointed to the position by President George W. Bush in 2002.

Graduating from Baylor in 1963 and receiving his commission as a second lieutenant, Truesdell first served as a Minuteman II missile launch officer at the 455th Strategic Missile Wing in Minot, S.D. During his active duty career, he served domestically and overseas, including tours in Vietnam and Germany and in the offices of the Army Chief of Staff, Joint Chiefs of Staff and National Security Council. He has been awarded the Silver Star, Bronze Star, Purple Heart and an Air Medal, among other awards.

Considering the last time the deputy assistant secretary visited Baylor was in 1972, he was shocked and pleasantly surprised at the campus changes.

"When I was stationed at Fort Sill in Oklahoma, my wife and I came to Waco for a football game," he said. "The last time I was on the Baylor campus, there was nothing but woods over by the river, and now there is that beautiful law school and the athletic facilities. When I was a student ROTC was headquartered in some old World War II barracks with the floors falling in. They now have a wonderful building."

The deputy secretary also noted that women were not a part of ROTC until 1971. Today, 53 female students (31 percent) belong to ROTC, with many of those cadets serving in leadership roles. The unit also has experienced significant growth. During the 2002 spring semester, 123 students participated in ROTC. That number has grown to 172 this fall.

"There is a surge in patriotism and an awareness that our country is in harm's way," said Truesdell about the growth of the program. "This stems not only from the September 11 events but also because of the prospect that nuclear weapons can be deployed by terrorists or intercontinentally through an accidental launch."

Truesdell said he has been impressed by the quality of people who are serving in the armed forces.

"When I returned to defense a year ago I expected to find a demoralized, inefficient, fragmented force, but our men and women in all services absolutely astound me," he said. "They are as good or better than any we have put forth in the country. It shows the strength of America. That despite the things we go through, we can always breed superb patriots when we are faced with crisis."

Truesdell advised the cadets to enjoy their time in the Air Force, even if they don't plan to make the military a career.

"The one piece of advice I will give is don't do like some of us have in our life. Don't wish time away," he said. "Try to enjoy everything you are doing, even if it isn't a big money maker. If you enjoy it, then that is the reward.

"Believe me, it is the lucky person who can find something enjoyable to do in life. That is what I have experienced. I look forward to going to work and don't remember having a job where I drive 80 miles to and from and I look forward to doing it. Because I know I am contributing to the country."

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