With college tuition rates rising every year, more and more high school students are taking another look at the Reserve Officers Training Corps - not only because of the college scholarship money the program offers, but also as a gateway to a military career.
Each branch of service has its own ROTC program. Jeff Guttman, a Carroll High School graduate, decided as a young man upon the Air Force, mostly because he grew up near Wright-Patterson Air Force Base.
“Growing up in the Dayton area, like most people, I had a tie to WPAFB,” Guttman said. “My father retired from the Air Force here and as the youngest in our family, I never moved during my childhood.”
Guttman’s family decided to settle in Beavercreek after his father retired from the military and then went back to work for the Department of Defense. But Guttman had his eyes in the sky.
“I remember going to the Air Force museum (now known as the National Museum of the United States Air Force) and looking at planes and thinking how cool it would be to fly them,” Guttman said. “And I knew the military had provided for my family.”
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And so Guttman decided to apply for an ROTC scholarship to college, with the hopes of becoming an Air Force officer and pilot. He eventually chose Miami University in Oxford because he said it felt “right.”
“I know that most colleges in Ohio offer the same quality of education, especially in the state schools,” Guttman said. “But you should go somewhere you fit. Coming to Miami I felt it was big enough for me to meet new people but small enough to always know someone around you.”
Guttman was awarded a pilot training spot in his junior year, and graduated from Miami with a degree in electrical engineering and a commission as an officer waiting for him in the Air Force.
“It’s usually a four-year commitment you owe to the Air Force after graduation,” Guttman said. “But for pilots it’s 10 years.”
The military life took him across the country and the world, until he was eligible to step down from active duty in 2012. He decided at that point to join the Air Force reserves, mostly because he wanted more time with his growing family.
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“I had twin boys in 2007,” Guttman said. “And by the time I left active duty, I had been deployed for half of their lives. At some point your wife and your kids need you and I knew I couldn’t keep spending so much time away.”
But Guttman knew he wanted to continue to serve, so the Air Force reserves program seemed right. And last year, his career brought him full circle — back to Oxford, where he is teaching ROTC classes. It’s a job he says he loves.
“Last year I taught all our freshmen and sophomores and it was basically an introduction to the Air Force,” Guttman said. “This year I’m teaching juniors, and it’s really the students that make my job great.”
Guttman said he loves that the students are excited about learning and about military service and that many remind him of himself at a younger age.
“It’s not that different now than it was 20 years ago,” Guttman said. “I even met a kid who grew up in Beavercreek and graduated from Carroll.”
Guttman enjoys being that “voice of reason,” by giving advice and providing different perspectives. He said it feels almost as though he is talking to his younger self.
“I typically tell my students that their lives are going to change and that only one thing is certain – however they think their lives will turn out, is not what will happen,” Guttman said. “When you are 18 to 22 years old, life is constantly changing, and you need to be ready for that.”
Guttman and his family are in Oxford for another two years and he said he isn’t sure where his career will take him after that. But he does know one thing for certain – he wants to continue to serve in some capacity.
“I met people in college ROTC who said they were only going to stay in for the required four years,” Guttman said. “But they are still in to this day. And others I would have sworn would have made the military a career, got out. You just never know where it’s going to take you.”