CSU Air Force ROTC detachment wins major regional honor

Group photo of CSU AFROTC in 2022

As Colorado State University heads to Colorado Springs to take on the Air Force Academy in the annual rivalry football game, CSU’s Air Force ROTC cadets will have something to celebrate. For the second year in a row, CSU’s AFROTC detachment has been recognized as the best large detachment in the region by the U.S. Air Force.

CSU’s Air Force ROTC Detachment 90 has won the Northwest Region’s High Flight Award for the top large ROTC detachment. The Northwest Region includes 34 universities in 15 states, from Illinois to Alaska. The win marks the third time in the past four years that Detachment 90 has taken home this honor, according to AFROTC leadership.

“Winning this award is a testament to the culture that we create here,” said Air Force Col. Gregg S. Johnson, who leads Detachment 90. “It’s a culture of consistently coaching and mentoring cadets and our cadre members.”

Known as the “Mighty Ninety,” Detachment 90 is composed of more than 140 cadets from CSU as well as the University of Northern Colorado, Aims Community College and Front Range Community College.

In addition to the High Flight Award, Detachment 90 has been named best in the nation for two of the past three years, winning the prestigious Right of Line Award in 2019 and 2021. The annual Right of Line Award recognizes the top Air Force ROTC detachments by evaluating cadet performance, community service, officer production, recruiting and scholarships. The AFROTC commander at Maxwell Air Force Base in Alabama selects the Right of Line Award recipient from the winners of the four separate regional competitions.

Johnson explained that the award-winning culture starts with the leadership at the cadet level through the connections they forge with CSU and the greater Fort Collins community. As an example, AFROTC cadets helped an Air Force veteran after the 2020 Cameron Peak Fire in cleaning the damaged property.

Nate Lovewell, a senior cadet majoring in psychology, is part of the Arnold Air Society, a Detachment 90 service organization. Recently, Lovewell and group members hosted a food drive and have volunteered at 5K runs, fundraisers and other Air Force ROTC functions such as a 24-hour POW/MIA vigil and a 24-hour memorial run.

“Our professor of aerospace studies, Col. Johnson, has a motto of ‘Culture Wins!’” Lovewell said. “To be part of the region’s best detachment means to me that culture wins. All the hard work — behind the scenes, early mornings and late nights — builds a culture of preparation, learning from failures and excellence that exemplifies the motto.”

Johnson, who joined CSU as commander in 2021 and is an alumnus, added that he has enjoyed seeing the displays of camaraderie and teamwork among the cadets.

“The cadet wing is certainly the lifeblood and why we’re here,” he said. “They care deeply about developing their leadership and wanting to be the best that they can be.”