Air Force ROTC offers shortened training opportunities


Courtesy of Ryan Finn Air Force Public Affairs Officer

Air Force ROTC cadets present colors

Tristan Wade

The average student, barring setbacks, takes four years to complete college. For at least some, the thought of trying to finish school sooner is stressful to even think about.

One ROTC student is doing just that, cutting a four-year program by more than half the time and instead hoping to complete it in just a year and a half. 

The Air Force ROTC program at Iowa State, and at most universities, usually takes four years to complete, but students are occasionally allowed to complete it in three.

“The reason we have a four-year plan is because it coincides with the academic plan, and in addition, the leadership development process takes a long time,” said Capt. James Hamaker, recruiting flight commander for Iowa State Air Force ROTC.

Completing the program in fewer than three years was often never considered, Hamaker said. If he received interest from students with fewer than three years of school left, he often had to tell them there wasn’t enough time left.

But in 2016, Hamaker received word from the Air Force ROTC headquarters that they wanted to implement a ROTC program that could be completed in only a year and a half.

“In a word, I was intrigued,” Hamaker said.

It didn’t take long for Hamaker to have the chance to see the program come to fruition. In November 2016, he was contacted by Daniel Shkiryak, senior in mechanical engineering, who was interested in joining the Air Force ROTC program.

“I’ve always had a fascination for the military, and the Air Force specifically,” Shkiryak said.

His older brother told him about friends who were in ROTC, and one day when a Navy recruiter visited a mechanical engineering class he was in, Shkiryak got the wheels rolling.

Shkiryak is on a five-year academic plan, which meant he had three semesters remaining, making the new ROTC program a perfect fit for his case. But it wasn’t an automatic approval.

He would need to complete four years of training in a year and a half. That was not a task to be taken lightly.

“In our screening, we want to make sure someone is not only actually motivated but also that they are going to be able to be successful in taking on the workload,” Hamaker said.

In order to be allowed to do the program, there was an interview process Shkiryak had to go through with the ROTC command at Iowa State to ensure he would be a good fit. He made a good impression and began this semester in the ROTC program.

He knew before winter break that he would be in ROTC. He said he took a couple classes over break and used the time to improve his physical fitness. His compressed timeframe means he must use all the time he can get to get ahead of the curve.

“It’s all the little things, all the details that you pick up with experience that are the toughest right now,” Shkiryak said.

The Air Force ROTC four-year program is broken up into two, two-year sections. The first is the General Military Course, which trains students for field training, and the second is the Professional Officer Course.

Shkiryak will have one semester to learn all he needs for the General Military Course and one academic year for the Professional Military Course.

“I’m not too worried,” Shkiryak said. “I’m pretty confident that I can overcome the challenge. If I put the time in, I can get it done.”