Alex Knoedler ’18 is pursuing his passion for flying as an AeroAstro student and a Squadron Cadet Commander in the Air Force Reserve Officers Training Corps (AFROTC), striving to fly fighter jets as a combat or test pilot and ultimately taking this experience to the astronaut corps at NASA.
Knoedler’s father, a Colonel with 20 years of Air Force experience, is highly influential in his future goals. “My dad actually delivered my enlistment oath,” he said, “and depending on how things work out in two to three years, he can deliver my oath of office.” Furthermore, military protocol dictates that the cadets must call a room to attention whenever a commissioned officer enters. “When my dad is visiting the Detachment, I have to call the room to attention,” explained Knoedler. “It’s also sort of a weird feeling to salute your dad.”
AFROTC has offered Knoedler unique experiences apart from those of other MIT students, and these are what he finds the most interesting. Some days he learns water survival in the Zesiger Center pool, practices squadron marching techniques, does drill and ceremony on Briggs Field, and shoots air rifles. “[AFROTC] grants me opportunities that no other program on campus could,” said Knoedler. “For one class we drove to an Air Base in New Hampshire and got to ride in a KC-135 Tanker as it refueled a couple F-16s and C-5 Galaxy, the Air Force’s largest plane.”
The second-year student is proud to don his uniform on campus and be a distinct member of the community in that way, but he also has immersed himself in other student activities as both a member of Phi Kappa Sigma fraternity and the Varsity Cross Country and Track and Field programs. Knoedler has found that the team dynamics and leadership practices are shared attributes of these activities. In fact, there are multiple cadets from Air Force, Army, and Navy on the cross country and track squads. “AFROTC feels a lot like a sports team,” he described. “The bonding I’ve gotten with running and swim teams through mutual hardship and positive experiences is definitely reflected in the ROTC group. The leadership and physical challenges we deal with as part of our training definitely develops a unique camaraderie.”
The leadership training from AFROTC is something that Knoedler knows will benefit his involvement in athletics and within his house. “Beyond college the Air Force will be my job for a while, and I’m beginning to realize how ROTC has been designed to prep me for life in the real Air Force.”
While his love of the Air Force and fast-flying aircraft may have been a genetic predisposition, Knoedler is enthusiastically exploring his own path and carving out a niche for himself as an AFROTC cadet. “From the perspective of an Air Force brat that has grown up around the Air Force culture my entire life, I’m having a fun time becoming a part of the Air Force on my own.”
The views of these AFROTC cadets are their personal opinions and do not represent those of the Dept of Defense, Air Force, or AFROTC.