Discover Internships: AFROTC Leadership Laboratory

“I had to switch from the mentality that we are competing against each other, to a mentality that we are all one team working toward the same goal.” Air Force ROTC each semester has a 1 S.H. class known as a Leadership Laboratory. It is an intensive 2 part program with a summer training that forces the students, also known as cadets, to grown in often times uncomfortable ways. Read below to learn about Isaac’s experience with the AFROTC Leadership Laboratory and how he grew within his role!

Part 1: General Military Course (GMC)

Cadets in their first two years of the AFROTC program are known as GMC. These cadets are competing on a national scale to go to the Field Training in the summer. Failure to get a slot disenrolls the cadet from the program meaning they can no longer become an Air Force officer through ROTC. I combined the first two years of the program in a high-risk, high-reward gamble that I knew I could be competitive in and learn to lead in that short period of time. I took on the role as General Knowledge Officer (GKO), where I was able to help other cadets with their studies in and outside of AFROTC. Class met weekly, and as a GMC I lead teams of 10 in mock military scenarios. As this year came to end, I was successful in my attempt to get a slot. Consoling those that did not was an emotional and difficult. To attempt to comfort someone who lost a potential dream when I had gotten what they wanted was a delicate line to walk and an enormous part of my growth in college.

Isaac Eigner-Bybee (picture 2nd from the right) with the other members of group staff. Group staff members make up the highest level of leadership for cadets in detachment 255. This picture was taken immediately after addressing the cadet Corps on the semester’s expectations.

Field Training:

Field Training is a 17-day intensive course where I joined a flight of 20 cadets. The goal is not only to graduate the course but to compete. My performance was ranked against the other 500 cadets at field training, and my percentile rank influences my ability to get a pilot slot in the Air Force. A small part of my score was some of the information I helped cadets learn in my role as GKO. The majority came from leadership exercises like the ones I had been leading as a GMC. It is a physically and emotionally draining process and I used a lot of the skills I had learned as a GMC to console those that did not preform as well. I had to adapt quickly and confront problems head on because the pace of the program did not allow for time to hesitate.

Part 2: Professional Officer Course (POC)

Cadets in their final 2 years now teach the course that the GMC go through. The entire course curriculum is made by us. I taught lessons each week, evaluated and was personally responsible for 2 weeks worth of content. I took the role of Outreach Flight Commander overseeing a team of 8 GMC. We were responsible for community outreach and special projects. We coordinated every color guard, volunteering event, and large scale projects for the University of Iowa’s AFROTC detachment. I learned how to be compassionate with deadlines, as we are students first after all, and how to grow cadets into better leaders. I did well in that position and was promoted to squadron commander. I now oversee outreach flight, as well as force support flight and logistics flight. The additional two flights handle the finances of the detachment as well as social media and morale events. I oversee 19 cadets within those three flights. Within this role I have learned to have a wide reaching impact while not physically being able to touch every part of a given project. It’s impossible to micromanage at this level.

Isaac Eigner-Bybee (pictured 2nd row 2nd from the left) with his Field Training graduating bay. Bay 332 was made up of Air Force cadets from across the country. This picture was taken the night before they returned home.

Personal Growth:

I’ve grown in my ability as a leader, follower, and to confront problems head on. The leadership is the most obvious part. You don’t get to lead a team of 19 without growing as a leader. I learned to trust my subordinates but also hold them accountable for failures. I learned to be a good follower. It’s not always the best to be a hard-charging motivated person if you are stepping all over the people that are trying to do their job and lead their team. That was especially highlighted for me at field training where we are all competing against one another. 20 people trying to be the leader ends in disaster. The people that do the best are the ones that support the leader and try to make the leader look as good as they can. I had to switch from the mentality that we are competing against each other, to a mentality that we are all one team working toward the same goal. I learned to confront problems head on. Several times in my AFROTC career, there have been people who take it too far. They bully or harass and use their position to get away with it. Usually their intentions are good, but instead of letting it fester until it becomes a problem, I would pull them aside early and outline how their behaviors are coming across and that they are crossing a line.

Author Bio:

Isaac Eigner-Bybee is a chemistry major with a psychology minor. He has a publication and several abstracts in internal medicine. Isaac is in the Air Force ROTC program and is competing for a pilot slot. He hopes to get into the physician–pilot program in the air force and combine his love of medicine and flying for a career.

Edited by: Delaney McDowell, Honors Student Admin

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