In the first year of a new national award, the Department of Defense recognized St. Thomas’ Air Force Reserve Officer Training Corps (AFROTC) as one of the best in the country.

St. Thomas was named one of the final four schools – out of more than 1,000 colleges and universities nationwide – and the top one in the Midwest region.

“It’s cool to see the work we’re putting in isn’t going unnoticed,” said senior Luke Hubers, who was also recognized this year as one of the top five cadets nationally in his class, and served as an elite cadet training assistant last summer. “People on campus see us in uniform and may not understand what goes on behind the scenes, but it’s incredible how in depth everything is between the coordination with the university and the Air Force, all that to make this whole operation happen. Not to mention the leadership growth and mentorship that goes with it for everybody. To see it all come together in this amazing product, and to see people recognize it with the university, it’s incredible.”

St. Thomas was the lone Division III school to be recognized, along with University of Notre Dame, Auburn University and Texas A&M. Lt. Col. Mark Madaus, commander of St. Thomas’ Detachment 410, cited the longstanding tradition of partnership with the university as crucial in all the program’s success.

“We’re very well integrated into everything that goes on across campus,” he said, citing the support of a St. Thomas grant for ROTC students to receive scholarship support as well as room and board. “I’m not aware of any of the other 1,100 schools in the country that have that level of support.”

St. Thomas has consistently been one of the top AFROTC detachments in the country for cumulative grade-point average and physical training scores, with a current ranking of eighth in the country, Madaus said. Along with that collective achievement, several students were recently tapped for national-level leadership roles.

“We had three cadet training assistants this summer, which is pretty unheard of to have a detachment do that,” said Hubers, speaking of the tabbing of cadets in the top percentages of field training for leadership roles. “It speaks to the support we give each other and the university gives us in this entire endeavor. The support is absolutely incredible.”

Hubers also pointed to the program’s core values – integrity, service and excellence – combining so well with St. Thomas’ values.

“It helps create this culture of not just being a military presence on campus, but an integrated part of the student body,” he said. “The values we hold in ROTC carry over so well to the academic part of things.”

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