Air Force ROTC unit to close in 2007

By Patrick J. Callahan

The campus-based Air Force ROTC Detachment 370 will close in the summer of 2007 due primarily to the small number of officers it has produced during the past decade and the need to move manpower to other locations to support significant growth in the Air Force ROTC program nationwide, Air Force officials have announced.

Lt. Col. Jay S. Fitzgerald, professor and chair of the Department of Aerospace Studies, says the closure will not have an impact on students currently enrolled and is not a reflection on the officers produced by the program. The AFROTC program at UMass began in 1951 and currently has 40 cadets enrolled. All of them will be able to finish, Fitzgerald says. Five active-duty Air Force personnel will be transferred out of UMass over the next three years, with the final person leaving in 2007, he says. UMass will retain its Army ROTC unit.

“Of course it’s difficult to see a program that has been a part of UMass for more than 50 years disappear, but the Air Force must make the best use of every one of its positions,” Fitzgerald says. “The quality of students has been outstanding—they represent UMass and the United States very, very well every day. Many have gone on to become general officers—the military equivalent of CEOs of major organizations.”

Col. Steve Wayne, commander of AFROTC based at Maxwell Air Force Base in Alabama, says the UMass detachment flag and unit number will be retired.

Nationally, Air Force ROTC officials are closing detachments at the University of Akron in Ohio, and Grambling State University in Louisiana next summer. In the summer 2007, officials will also close detachments the University of Memphis; University of Cincinnati; Wilkes University in Wilkes-Barre, Pa.; and New Jersey Institute of Technology, Newark. During the past three years, the number of students taking ROTC across the country has grown by more than 30 percent; however, just over half of this growth occurred at 17 percent of the detachments, while 20 percent of the units saw enrollment stay the same or decline, Air Force officials say. Overall, enrollment has grown from about 13,000 cadets in 2001 to 18,500 in 2004.