Future Leaders: A day in the life of an ROTC cadet

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Greg Nash
  • 23d Wing Public Affairs


A thunderous roar of the crowd fills his ears as blinding camera flashes illuminate the room. The energy is electric, like a baseball stadium in the final inning when the home run hitter steps up to the plate.

U.S. Air Force Cadet Bradley Joyal, Detachment 172 Air Force Reserve Officer’s Training Corps cadet wing commander, approaches the stage to pin on the rank of second lieutenant. He emerges with a wide grin, feeling as if he hit a grand slam, while basking in excitement of completing ROTC.  

After turning down several baseball scholarships to follow in his father’s footsteps of serving his country, Joyal elected to join the AFROTC program.  The longing to be home influenced his decision to attend Valdosta State University to pursue a degree in criminal justice.

“My dad ultimately inspired me to join the Air Force, which has interested me since the age of five,” said Joyal, whose father retired as a Chief Master Sergeant after 30 years of service. “The places he went, the people he met, and the relationships he formed were all things I wanted. I envied him.

“After talking with my dad at a very young age about the difference between officers and enlisted, I chose to take the path that would lead me to commission,” Joyal added.

Joyal’s discipline, drive and dedication helped him balance being a cadet and full-time student.

“Being a student and cadet at the same time was difficult, however, it was a very rewarding experience,” said Joyal, who was also the building manager for VSU’s student union. “In the AFROTC, we must be well-rounded in all facets of life. From the effort a cadet puts into the program, to academics and physical fitness, to just being an all-around good person.

“There were times when my duties as a cadet leader took precedence,” Joyal added. “While it was difficult to step away from my academics in order to address the AFROTC program, it all came down to inner motivation, time management and dedication to fulfill the goals I had set for myself. It’s the nature of the beast.”

While Joyal aspired to begin his Air Force career as an officer through the U.S. Air Force Academy, he realized there were a multitude of options to accomplish commissioning.

U.S. Air Force Capt. Abbey Wilkins, VSU recruiting flight commander, says the different processes of becoming an officer ultimately are all geared to help individuals reach the same goal.

“AFROTC and [U.S. Air Force] Academy cadets both face academic, physical and military challenges that develop cadets as officers and leaders,” said Wilkins.

Joyal says he learned how to be a team member, to have a strong work ethic and to deal with pressure through playing baseball, which helped him persevere through the AFROTC program’s rigorous training.

“Over the past four years, I grew from being a cadet who knew little about the fundamentals of leadership, to becoming a second lieutenant equipped with the necessary tools that I will work to enhance throughout my career,” said Joyal.

“I have learned how to lead myself by paying attention to details, honing my briefing skills, creating a command presence and managing my time effectively,” Joyal added. “I have also been able to increase my ability to effectively work with people, learn how to be both a mentee and mentor, and to work in a team dynamic.”

Even though Joyal knew that the AFROTC program was a stepping stone into the U.S. Air Force, he couldn’t foresee all the experiences and skills he’d learn along the way.  

“The AFROTC allowed me to gain confidence in my abilities as a leader and as an officer in the United States military,” said Joyal. “With every experience, I wanted to leave a lasting impact on the detachment. I put a lot of thought into what I could do individually to not only make myself better, but make the entire detachment better as a whole.”

Leaving for training just days after his graduation, Joyal says he is willing to put as much time and effort into being the best officer he can be when his name is called.

“Joyal achieved so much in the AFROTC to include keeping his outstanding cumulative grade point average of a 3.89 to earn his degree in criminal justice,” said Wilkins. “Now, he’s a graduate and commissioned officer heading out to combat systems officer training.”

While the allure of roaming baseball mounds and hitting fastballs with unmatched power is still vividly embedded in his thoughts, Joyal prepares to embark on this new journey and says he will be just as enthusiastic and alert to fulfill his duty as a CSO for the U.S. Air Force.