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Preparing to serve

Bret Andringa, like millions of Americans, watched the drama of the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon unfold on television. By the end of the day, Andringa said he knew he?d be involved in the resolution.

?I put it all together in my head that we?d have a reaction that would involve ground troops, and me someway,? he said.

The 26-year-old Army ROTC cadet is one of more than 200 cadets at USF who knows war is a concept not as alien as it was before last week?s attacks.

Andringa, who is married and has a 6-year-old daughter, could be called to action within the next year and a half.

?I?d miss my family, and they would miss me,? he said. ?I and my family would be proud to be involved in the country?s reaction to this.?

Other cadets share Andringa?s pride.

Cadet Phillip Cain is not worried about the possibility of going to war. In a sense, he welcomes the opportunity to serve his country.

Cain said Americans? support is important, and he has seen it. People on the street have given him waves and thumbs up.

?It does make everyone, not just in the military, realize the need for a strong military presence,? he said.

Air Force ROTC cadet and sophomore Sherri Carr comes from a military family and knows military life. She was enlisted in the Air Force before she came to USF.

Carr said she?s not worried about being called to duty because she is a student.

?We?re in more of a learning environment,? she said. ?But it?s something any student would think about.?

Cain and Carr said it would be unlikely for ROTC cadets to be called, because they are students.

But when students graduate, they automatically become lieutenants, thus becoming eligible to serve.

Cain?s twin brother, a lab technician, is in the reserves and will most likely be called for duty soon. Cain said he?s confident his brother will fare well.

?I?d be more than willing to see him go because I know he?s competent,? Cain said. ?He wants to go.?

Lt. Col. Robert Connell, chairman for the Department of Aerospace Studies, said most cadets were initially in a state of disbelief and horror but now realize they may play a role in America?s next conflict.

?I did notice many of the cadets were affected strongly, emotionally,? he said. ?But they look forward to what they can do. We?ll do what?s needed.?

Capt. Robert Ingraham saw his students? reactions of the attack firsthand. After a class break, a student informed the class about what happened.

?The atmosphere in class changed pretty quick,? he said. ?I don?t think anyone thought, ?What?s my role in this???

Instead of shying away, Connell said a couple of students have enrolled in the ROTC program since the attacks.

?People are reminded of their roots, and patriotism rises in people?s hearts,? he said.

It isn?t just the cadets wondering if and when they could be called, but the professors as well. Many professors in the Army and Air Force ROTC departments are on active duty.

?It?s unlikely, because we have a job to perform here,? Capt. and unit admissions officer Honore Spencer said. ?Our job is critical to the future of the Air Force. If they take us out, how would we be able to train new officers coming in??

Contact Selina Roman at