A group of West Virginia University students enrolled in the Air Force Reserve OfficersTraining Corps (AFROTC) program has been chosen to serve as the leadership team of the Arnold Air Society, a national service organization.

The team of nine student-cadets, all members of the Charles E. Yeager Squadron of the Arnold Air Society, was elected to serve as the organizations National Staff during a recent annual conference in Chicago.

This is a tremendous honor for our detachment, and we are proud of the hard work and effort from the team that secured it,said Col. Edwin Parks, commander of the WVU AFROTC program and professor of aerospace studies.To serve this important organization and develop its direction is an incredible opportunity for their development as leaders.

As the National Staff, the team will spend the next year working with 11 regional headquarters, representing 139 Arnold Air Society squadrons across the country, to develop community service projects, fundraising projects and methods to increase membership within the organization.

For team leader Dan Whalen, a senior aerospace engineering major and AFROTC cadet from Martinsburg, the chance to serve as the national commander of the Arnold Air Society represents the perfect complement to his officer training.

Well be framing the vision, setting the national agenda and reporting on our progress throughout the year,Whalen said.The opportunity to lead a group this large, work with officers and cadets from across the nation and put programs in place to increase community service contributions is a tremendous privilege.

To earn the status as National Staff, the WVU students attended the annual conference and lobbied a body of more than 1,000 members to consider them for the role. They presented their vision and team qualifications and shared letters of endorsement from Gov. Joe Manchin, Sen. Robert C. Byrd and WVU President Mike Garrison.

There was a lot of politicking during the convention, but we were able to demonstrate to the voting members that our squadron has the skills, experience and ability to lead this organization,Whalen said.Weve defined our platform and shared the individual experience of each of our team members. In the end, we were able to convince the voting members that we have a hard working team that can serve the organization well.

The additional team members and their respective positions on the National Staff are as follows: Holly Thompson, an elementary education major from Belington, vice commander; Jeremiah Johnson, a criminology and investigations major from Martinsburg, director of operations; Jonathan Hansen, an aerospace engineering and German major from Virginia Beach, Va., director of information management; Heather Sealover, a recreation, parks and tourism resources major from Harrisville, director of financial management; Evan Grinstead, an industrial engineering major from Pt. Pleasant, director of public affairs; Bradley Shoulders, a criminology and investigations major from Morgantown, director of training; Richard Bielecki, a criminology and investigations major from Toms River, N.J., director of support; and Mark Gonzales, an aerospace engineering major from Las Vegas, executive officer.

Additional support for the team will come from its current squadron adviser, Air Force Capt. James Hendrickson, an assistant professor in aerospace studies, and Parks, who will serve as national adviser.

For Whalen, the opportunity to serve in his role as national commander provides him with the chance to develop his leadership skills and be exposed to high-ranking officers.

This is going to be the best leadership experience that any college student could get,he said.I will be able to lead a group of 3,000 of Americas best Air Force ROTC cadets, serve on a national board of directors and interact with top generals and Air Force elite. Its an incredible opportunity for me and each of us on the team.

Formed in 1947, almost concurrently with the formation of the U.S. Air Force, the Arnold Air Society is a professional, service honorary for AFROTC cadets with over 3,000 members. Although not officially a part of the Air Force ROTC , the Arnold Air Society works in conjunction with program to further develop cadets into Air Force officers and advocates the support of aerospace power.

For more information about the Charles E. Yeager Squadron of the Arnold Air Society, visit http://www.yeagersquadron.com/index.htm .

For more information about the Arnold Air Society, visit http://www.arnold-air.org/ .