While comrades serve, U sophomore prepares

Kristin Frey

Every Wednesday morning before sunrise, physics sophomore Erin Frederickson jumps out of bed, makes sure her navy blue uniform is crisp and unwrinkled, and jets over to the armory for physical training.

“I usually get up at 6 a.m. for physical training at 6:30 a.m. at least twice a week,” Frederickson said.

Frederickson, an Air Force ROTC cadet, is training to become an Air Force officer when she graduates. Although she and her fellow ROTC students cannot be called to active duty, they physically train and take classes every semester so they can serve for at least four years in the Air Force after they graduate.

Frederickson – who is on a full scholarship through ROTC – said she had always been interested in serving her country but was focused on getting an education first. Then, at her first-year orientation two years ago, she came across an Air Force ROTC recruiting booth.

“The recruiter told me about all the options I had and how it would pay for med school,” she said.

The Air Force ROTC allows students to enter the Air Force while still receiving an education, unit admissions officer and aerospace studies professor Maj. Gregory Webster said.

The four-year program includes a one-credit military course and leadership lab during the first and sophomore years, and a three-credit professional officer course during junior and senior years.

“Air Force Reserve Officer Training Corps is a part-time military reserve officer training,” Webster said. “This balances your normal college life with military training.”

Because the ROTC will also pay for her medical school, Frederickson will have to serve between nine and 11 years once she graduates.

Frederickson said once she is on active duty, she plans to serve as a flight surgeon, ensuring pilots are physically ready to fly. But she said if she changes her mind, the Air Force also offers every kind of medical specialty imaginable.

“There are definitely a lot of options,” she said. “It’s not closed at all.”

Frederickson said she knows that when she goes on active duty, she might someday have to go to war but is prepared for the possibility.

“I think by that time I’ll be prepared,” she said. “I’ll have all the training I’ll need. It’ll be my job.”

She said although she cannot currently be called to active duty, it was difficult watching other student-soldiers leave school for war.

“It’s kind of hard to see young people, you know, your peers, being torn out of school and having to go do that,” she said.

Frederickson’s roommate, Talia Sundby, said Frederickson is a normal student – but with different priorities.

“She comes home tired and exhausted and excitedly says, ‘I did so many push-ups today,’ ” Sundby said. “I just look at her and shrug.”

But Sundby said Frederickson also has time to go out and have fun.

Despite this, Frederickson said, she still spends a lot of her extra time doing ROTC activities – which forced her to quit her job as a hostess at Old Chicago earlier this year.

“My roommate and my friends thought I was crazy,” she said. “But now that I have work out of the way I’ve got more ‘me’ time.”

Frederickson said she has no regrets about joining the program and said it has helped her focus her career goals.

“I know exactly what I want to do when I graduate,” she said. “The Air Force is that path. If there isn’t that, then I don’t know what I would do.”

She said her time as an active duty officer will also give her an advantage when she looks for civilian jobs after her duty is up.

“When you’re in the Air Force, you experience so much more in such a smaller amount of time,” she said. “I think that’s why a lot of employers look for military people.”