A looming Golden Gate Bridge provided the perfect backdrop to runners racing in the 4th Annual Dons 5K, which took place this past Saturday, Feb. 25. Around 350 runners, a participation record for the event, took part in the race that was organized by USF’s Army ROTC program in hopes of securing the necessary funds for upcoming events and activities.
The 5K took the racers on a three mile loop around Crissy Field, with the finish line stationed near the St. Francis Yacht Club. Unlike the average 5K, ROTC took a page out of the Walking Dead playbook by dressing cadets like “zombies” in order to scare unsuspecting runners.
For serious competitors, ROTC designed a preliminary interval workout that was to be completed in teams before the actual 5K started. The workout consisted of training exercises commonly undertaken by a soldiers in the U.S. Army, things like overhead tree log presses, water jug relays using containers filled with 5 gallons of water, and, finally, running the course with a backpack weighed down with sandbags.
“You’re never just running in the military. You’re carrying a pack, you’re carrying a rifle, you’re carrying a buddy, I mean, you’re carrying a lot of stuff,” said Keenan Casey, a student from Dominican University who trains and takes classes here at USF since Dominican does not have an ROTC program.
“It’s a good event, it gets all the cadets doing different things and learning, there is a lot of organization in this even though it’s a smaller run, and there is a lot of planning in this,” said Maj. Thomas Dyer, who teaches Military Science to sophomores in the ROTC program and has been involved with the planning of the 5K since August of last year.
Elizabeth Francisco, a senior Nursing major in the ROTC program, helped organize and get the word out on the 5K, telling the Foghorn that as of Saturday the race had produced $7000 in donations. “It gets better every year,” said Francisco, “It’s what we can provide. We’re a small organization and we don’t have much funding, we don’t have many materials, so we used what we had to put on the run.”
Part of the $7000 raised will go toward a donation for the Wounded Warrior Project, a military and veterans charity that helps injured veterans and their families. The rest of the money will go toward funding events and activities that require the collection of donations because USF does not provide economic assistance for such events to the ROTC program.
“We had people that were like ‘I saw your run on a website, I just wanna sign up’ which is great because we don’t have funding, and when it comes to putting on our Military Ball those funds comes right out of our pocket,” said Francisco. “This isn’t a USF sponsored event, this isn’t an Army sponsored event, this is a bunch of cadets that want to work together and make our program a little bit better,” continued Francisco.
The Military Ball is a formal end of the year event that marks the culmination of a student’s career as a cadet and ushers in an individual’s new career as an officer in the U.S. Armed Forces. For Second Lt. John Gubuan , who graduated from USF in December and served as the head of the organizing committee for the 5K last year, said events such as the race are crucial in order to ensure success for the Military Ball.
“We try to mimic what you’d be doing in the actual army, because in the actual army you have military balls, you have dine ins, you have formals and it’s important to get acquainted with them,” said Gubuan, who is on track to become a commissioned officer in active duty once he completes his Basic Officer Leaders Course (BOLC) in an area of specialization of his choosing.
The race marked Gubuan’s last ROTC event before leaving to Fort Benning in Georgia for his BOLC which will have him stationed in the Peach State for eight to ten months while he completes the program.
When looking back on his career as an ROTC undergraduate student, Gubuan candidly admits that he feels as though the ROTC program is “disconnected from the rest of the university, where were like our own little pocket at USF” said Gubuan, before acknowledging that he and others in the program are fortunate to attend USF with substantial federal financial aid packages.
When asked about her experience at USF, Francisco said she too feels a bit out of place at times. “I have had people ask me why I do what I do. Why I do ROTC, so I understand where he’s coming from,” said Francisco, who cites the strict schedule of an ROTC cadet as one of the biggest problems when trying to connect with others. “It’s hard to make friends outside of ROTC because we’re with each other all the time, and we’re doing things all the time, everyday we put on the physical training uniform and twice a week we put on the full army uniform,” said Francisco.
“We put on the uniform, and we play with dummy rifles. That is what it is. And we don’t get that much support,” she continued. “There’s people that don’t agree with what we do, but what we’re doing is really protecting our country. I don’t want to go out there and kill people, but I want to keep my soldiers safe, so as a nurse that’s the greatest thing for me because I get to be in the hospital saving people’s lives that are trying to save our country’s life,” said Francisco.
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Photos Courtesy of ROTC