Yale has not hosted the Reserve Officer Training Corps since 1969, but that didn’t stop a Yale student from becoming the top ROTC cadet in the country.
On Oct. 25, the Air Force ROTC named senior Robbie Berschinski its national cadet of the year, selecting him out of approximately 2,500 cadets nationwide.
Berschinski is one of 11 Yale students enrolled in the ROTC program at the University of Connecticut at Storrs. Nine are in the Air Force and two are in the Army.
As part of the officer-training program, Berschinski participated in a mandatory six-week field training exercise the summer after his sophomore year.
“It meant waking up at 4:30 a.m., drill sergeants yelling at you, guns, everything you can think of in a military training program,” Berschinski said.
But Berschinski went on to receive the title of “distinguished graduate,” the highest honor in field training.
“In terms of physical fitness, he’s an all-star basically,” fellow Cadet Matthew Collins ’03 said.
After his junior year, Berschinski participated in the Iron Man Triathlon, which consists of 2.4 miles of swimming, 112 miles of cycling and a marathon.
In addition to passing physical fitness tests, Air Force ROTC cadets must also maintain a strong academic record. Jonathan Wood ’03 said Berschinski has excelled in both areas.
“He’s the man,” Wood said. “He’s a stellar athlete. He’s a stellar student. He’s just the man.”
Berschinski is required to work for the Air Force for four years after his graduation. In return, the Air Force is paying for his Yale tuition and books in full.
Originally from Atlanta, Berschinski applied to the ROTC program in his senior year in high school. He said that the scholarship played an important role in his decision but that he applied primarily because of his strong desire to work for the government.
“I always wanted to be an intelligence officer,” Berschinski said.
As part of his training, he travels to UConn every Thursday to take part in a three-hour seminar on military policy and a two-hour leadership laboratory that covers military protocol.
“The class is similar to a political science seminar on current events. Leadership laboratory changes weekly, but on any given week the cadets might practice drill and ceremonies or attend a talk by an officer,” Berschinski said.
After he graduates, Berschinski will be commissioned a second lieutenant. He said plans to then enter intelligence school at Goodfellow Air Force Base in Texas, adding that he hopes to then work at either the Pentagon or a base near Washington, D.C.
“I’d love to work in Washington, but the needs of the Air Force come first,” Berschinski said. “If they want me in Germany or Japan, I’ll gladly go.”
The Air Force ROTC Professors of Aerospace Science chose Berschinski as the top cadet by looking at a combination of standardized test scores, grade point average, field training scores and extracurricular activities.
Collins said Berschinski, who is a freshman counselor, not only has earned individual honors but also has been an inspiration to younger students in ROTC.
“In a certain way, he’s been a mentor for all of the junior ROTC cadets,” Collins said.
Cadets said they were drawn to the ROTC program because it allowed them to give something back to their country.
“I always wanted to serve my country,” Cadet Ariel Dean ’03 said. “I know it sounds kind of idealistic, but it’s true.”