Conway holds high ranking in Air Force ROTC

Published 11:50 pm Saturday, January 3, 2009

Keith Conway, an Isabella native, was 13 when he joined the Chilton Composite Squadron of the Civil Air Patrol.

It was the Civil Air Patrol that introduced him to the Air Force and the military lifestyle as well as aviation.

“I’ve always had an interest in flying, so I guess it’s just kind of the natural path,” said the Auburn University senior, recently selected to serve as Cadet Wing Commander of the Auburn Air Force ROTC Detachment — the highest rank that a student can hold in AFROTC.

As Cadet Wing Commander for the spring semester, Conway will be in charge of setting and enforcing policies as well as seeing that senior cadets complete their final training requirements. In a way, he will serve as a liaison between cadets and cadre (instructors) for the semester.

“It’s a big responsibility, but it’s going to be a lot of fun,” he said.

As one might guess, Conway’s achievement didn’t come easy. He had to pass a rigorous selection process, which included interviews with Air Force instructors and leaders at the detachment.

“It was a pretty big deal,” he said. “I had to compete with a lot of other seniors.”

The ROTC program is designed for students in college to receive military training while pursuing their major. For the first two years, members receive fundamental training such as personal self-defense, self-aid, buddy care, and how to interact with people in a foreign country.

“This training shows them what they can expect in an expeditionary environment overseas,” Conway said. “It’s just the basics on how to take care of yourself and survive.”

Sophomore and junior ROTC cadets attend field training, a 24-day program at Maxwell Air Force Base in Montgomery. Their performance in field training reflects what jobs they will eventually earn in the Air Force.

The last two years of ROTC are spent in leadership positions such as that held by Conway.

“You have a say in what goes on, and you’re actually running the training program,” he explained. “You go from being instructed to the instructor.”

Conway, an industrial systems engineering major, soon will know what his job in the Air Force will be. He is hoping for a pilot’s slot.

A word of advice for young, aspiring pilots: consider the benefits of Civil Air Patrol.

“It’s a good introduction, especially if you’re interested in the Air Force,” he said. “It teaches you a lot of good values.”

Conway remains involved with CAP. In fact, he is deputy director of cadet programs for the Alabama Wing. He also oversees emergency service training at the Auburn Composite Squadron.

Conway thanked his family for guidance and support, especially parents David and Pat Conway and grandmother Evelyn. He added his grandfather, World War II veteran Gordon Conway, influenced him to become a pilot.

Other achievements of Conway

AFROTC Field Training Superior Performer Award: Ranked third out of 22 in his flight at field training

2008 Buzzbee Scholarship Award Winner

Marched with Auburn University Marching Band in St. Patrick’s Day Parade in Dublin, Ireland

Outstanding Senior Member Staff Officer at the 2008 Alabama/Mississippi Wing Summer Cadet Encampment (Civil Air Patrol)

Distinguished Graduate, 2007 Alabama FTX Training Cycle: Distinguished Graduate of ground search and rescue training program in Civil Air Patrol

Alabama Wing Cadet of the Year, 2006: Top CAP cadet in state of Alabama for 2006.