UNO Wolfpack helps son follow his dad

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UNO sophomore DJ Carlson knows where he’s going.

He wants to be a navigator.

He wants to be an officer in the Air Force and have a long military career like his dad, who retired as a master sergeant at Offutt Air Force Base, and like his two grandfathers. (His mom’s dad did two tours of Vietnam and actually fought in the unit featured in the Mel Gibson movie We Were Soldiers.)

“I want to be just like my dad, honestly,” DJ says. “The Air Force was a huge part of my growing up – that military tradition.”

Then after he retires from the Air Force, DJ wants to use his business management degree and open a bowling alley. He loves bowling. He competed for Bellevue West’s bowling team in high school and placed third in state.

DJ lived all over the country before his folks settled in Bellevue. His mom wasn’t in the military, but she worked various civilian jobs on the bases. She now works in lodging at Offutt.

Growing up in a military family, DJ says, taught him a lot about what he wants in life.

He chose to go to school at UNO, he says, because it was affordable for him and his family and because it had a strong tradition of helping students like him who are affiliated in some way with the military.

DJ is a cadet in UNO’s Air Force ROTC Detachment 470. The detachment – also known as “the Wolfpack” – was established at UNO in 1951. The university was one of 62 institutions chosen from about 600 schools back then that were seeking to host an Air Force ROTC unit.

The detachment’s mission is to develop leaders for the Air Force. Being so close to Offutt, home of the U.S. Strategic Command and the Air Force’s 55th Wing, gives the detachment’s cadets many opportunities to interact with active-duty experts.

DJ won this year’s UNO Air Force ROTC Alumni Chapter Scholarship. He wants to thank those former Wolfpack cadets for their support.

“It makes me feel extraordinary,” he says. “I can’t describe that feeling, to know that the cadre sees how hard I’m working, and to put in such a good word with those alumni and to be selected by them. It’s unreal.

“It’s awesome.”

Chuck Holderness, president of the alumni chapter, says DJ reflects the outstanding qualities of all the scholarship recipients over the years – he has an excellent GPA, he’s active in UNO’s Air Force ROTC and in service activities in the community, and he’s working hard beyond his classes to pay for and pursue his academic and military goals.

DJ has worked several jobs to help with the costs of college. He’s been a cook at the Offutt Air Force Base Patriot Club. In August, he left that job to start working at the base’s Peacekeeper Lanes bowling alley. During the baseball season he’s also a vendor at Werner Park for the Omaha Storm Chasers.

Says Holderness: “As former cadets at UNO, the alumni members remember the days when frugal financial decisions were made about getting a hamburger after class or putting gas in the car so you could make it to school the next day. Currently, we are offering a $500 scholarship each fall and spring semester.

“With today’s cost of tuition, that doesn’t go very far. In fact, it doesn’t cover the cost of one class.”

The alumni chapter hopes to raise enough money for its scholarship fund to provide $1,000 each fall and spring to promising students like DJ.

“We need the help of all of our AFROTC and Angel Flight alumni to achieve this goal,” Holderness says. “We are so proud of our UNO AFROTC cadets. They are America’s best young men and women.”

Young people are the U.S. Air Force’s most precious resource. In order to attract students like DJ Carlson into the service of our country, it’s imperative that assistance be available to ease the financial burden of a university education.

If you would like to help UNO’s Air Force ROTC Alumni Chapter raise money for its scholarship fund, please contact the University of Nebraska Foundation’s Nicole Massara at 402-502-4105.

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