Colonel Phil Bossert" />
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Thursday, September 28, 2023


GUEST COMMENTARY: Game an ode to our community

It will be much more than a football game when the Cougars play the Air Force Academy Falcons for the first time ever this Saturday. No matter what the score, both schools are already big winners.

UH has rolled out the red carpet, or should I say blue carpet, for the Air Force. Athletics Director Dave Maggard and his staff designated this game as their annual salute to the armed forces and made several generous gestures to all veterans. These include offering 500 general admission tickets for half price to all military personnel, providing free tickets to wounded vets recovering at the Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center, providing free tickets to Air Force, Army, Navy and Marine ROTC cadets who are attending other colleges in Houston that participate in ROTC and providing free tickets to military supporters in Houston.

In addition, the Houston Alumni Organization provided a great deal for the Academy’s Alumni Association’s pre-game mixer in their beautiful alumni center, and UH Athletics scheduled a number of events during the game to recognize veterans. These events include the swearing in of 20 ROTC cadets into the armed forces, the awarding of combat medals to Iraq and Afghanistan veterans, presentations to UH marking the five-year anniversary of Air Force ROTC at UH and the one-year anniversary of the Houston Corps of Cadets.

But UH’s support for veterans and ROTC goes far beyond one football game. The Air Force and Army ROTC programs are hosted by UH while the Navy/Marine program is hosted by Rice University. With cross-town agreements, one or more of these programs are available at 17 colleges and universities in the Houston metroplex.

Already the second-largest corps in the Gulf Region with 100 more cadets than the Louisiana State University Corps, this official association of all three ROTC programs plans to be the biggest Corps of Cadets in Texas in 10 years.

All three ROTC programs have grown significantly in the last two years, and during that time Air Force ROTC was the fastest growing program of its kind in the nation, nearly tripling the number of Air Force cadets in our program in just two years.

UH is also supporting a new building for Air Force and Army ROTC programs to be built by 2012, pending funding. Both programs have long outgrown their facilities. Called the Houston Corps of Cadets and UH Center for Applied Leadership Building, this will also be a focal point for 95 area high schools with junior ROTC programs. We invite these 10,000-plus JROTC cadets to the UH main campus several times each semester for various events including guest speakers, drill competitions and seminars on leadership. More than one cadet has decided to attend UH after visiting this impressive campus with so many nationally ranked academic and athletic programs.

The ROTC programs and the Academy strongly support the University. Since January they have worked with the University to make sure all military-related events this Saturday are appropriate and enjoyable for all fans. These include fly-bys by several Air Force aircraft and the arrival of the Wings of Blue Academy parachute team. Four members will jump into Robertson Stadium 20 minutes prior to game time carrying a special gift for UH fans. Also, the Academy Falcon, one of only two performing mascots in the NCAA, will visit schools in Houston to publicize the game two days prior.

The ROTC programs have also been busy supporting UH President Renu Khator’s key goal of moving UH into top tier status. We are co-hosting, with the UH Division of Research, our third annual Department of Defense research conference on Nov. 13 at the University Hilton.

The last two conferences attracted more than 500 UH faculty, staff and students. The Air Force and Army programs are partnering with the College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences, the College of Technology, the Bauer College of Business and the College of Education to provide free one-day leadership seminars to high school juniors and seniors. This continues UH’s emphasis on Carnegie Community Engagement and is also a superb recruiting venue for UH and ROTC. The ROTC programs continue to increase the amount of federal ROTC scholarships, now worth well more than a million dollars annually, and we are supporting the new Houston Corps of Cadets endowment fund established last year with a commitment of $200,000 from representatives of the Military Officers Association of America.

We must all remember that almost 1,000 of the more than 35,000 students attending school at the UH main campus are veterans. With the new $65 billion GI Bill for the 21st Century, passed this summer by Congress and President George W. Bush, the number of student veterans is expected to grow significantly in the near future. Without these veterans and 250-plus ROTC cadets, UH would not have broken a record for enrollment this fall.

Any service academy football game is a special event, especially during wartime. Beneath the festive atmosphere, all fans should remember that the Academy and ROTC cadets they see Saturday face probable deployment to Iraq, Afghanistan or other battlefronts on the War on Terror shortly after they graduate and become commissioned officers in the world’s greatest military.

And many of the other military personnel in Robertson Stadium that day have already served in these countries, some multiple times. UH recognizes and respects this reality through its enormous support for all veterans and the ROTC programs.

Because I’m an Air Force Academy graduate and also a member of the UH faculty, many have asked me who I’m supporting this Saturday. I could easily say that is "top secret information," but let me be serious – I’m rooting for the best team, and two great teams will compete this Saturday.

To all UH faculty, staff, students, alumni and community supporters: thanks so much for supporting the troops. Go Falcons, and go Coogs!

Bossert, a professor of Air Force Science at UH and a veteran of military operations in Afghanistan, the Gulf War and Panama, can be reached via [email protected]

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