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National leaders, elected by their peers

UND’s Air Force ROTC Honor Societies win national awards, elected to national staff leadership for 2022-23

Members of UND’s Air Force ROTC Detachment, as well as civilian students, were recognized in April with national awards for their service to the Arnold Air Society and Silver Wings honor societies. UND’s AAS squadron, named for past UND president Tom Clifford, was elected to lead the national organization through the next academic year. YouTube screenshot.

In April, at the Arnold Air Society and Silver Wings National Conclave in Washington, D.C., UND’s respective chapters of those two national organizations won multiple awards for their work over the past year.

Additionally, UND’s Major Thomas J. Clifford AAS squadron was elected to lead the National Staff for the professional, honorary and service organization, which is named after Gen. Henry “Hap” Arnold, the first and only Five-Star General of the Air Force.

UND Air Force ROTC cadets who are members of AAS will lead the nation’s 100-plus total squadrons, located at universities throughout the country, for the next year.

“UND’s Arnold Air Society and Silver Wings students have truly embraced ‘Leaders in Action,’” said Lt. Col. Jason Evans, commanding officer of UND’s Air Force ROTC detachment. “Coming out of the pandemic, they recognized many national policies and procedures can be improved and are now in a position to implement those positive changes for nearly 100 chapters across the U.S. and Puerto Rico. We’re proud of their leadership initiative and, for the first time in many years, AAS National Staff is hosted by a university not located on the east coast.”

Though AAS has existed on UND’s campus since 2010, the Pearl I. Young Silver Wings chapter only received its official charter last month. As a sister organization, Silver Wings represents an opportunity for civilian students interested in community service, leadership and networking for a potential career in the Department of Defense.

Award-winning chapters

Arnold Air Society and Silver Wings are sister organizations under the Air and Space Forces Association. Though AAS only accepts members who are AFROTC or Air Force Academy officer candidates, or cadets, Silver Wings was established to engage the civilian sector involved in national defense organizations. Thus, all university students, including ROTC cadets, are welcome to join Silver Wings chapters.

The AAS serves to bolster cadets’ experiences as officer candidates – building their skills and knowledge regarding leadership, organization and service. As a sister organization, Silver Wings provides a similar avenue for students who are interested in community service, leadership and potential networking for future civilian employment within the Department of Defense or federal government.

At UND, these organizations operate through the Major Thomas J. Clifford Squadron for AAS, and the Pearl I. Young Chapter for Silver Wings. UND’s AAS squadron was established in 2010, while the Silver Wings chapter just received its official charter during this year’s national conclave, commonly referred to as NATCON.

At this year’s NATCON, UND’s AAS squadron received the Eagle Award for its twice-yearly highway cleanup efforts on Highway 2, outside of Grand Forks. The Eagle Award is conferred to the AAS squadron with the best project or series of projects related to an environmental cause.

Also, UND’s AAS and Silver Wings groups won the Ciccoli Joint Ops Award for their cooperation in furthering the objectives of their organizations. These activities included the highway cleanup project, various fundraisers and morale events hosted on campus.

Cadet Sarah Vigevani was awarded the Lt. Col. Paul S. Gillespie Award, which recognized the cadet’s efforts in activating a new Silver Wings chapter. Levin Brandt, a former cadet, was recognized by Gen. John W. Raymond, Chief of the U.S. Space Force, during the weekend’s Air Force Association Luncheon for his own efforts in getting Silver Wings started at UND. Brandt later received a challenge coin from the Space Force’s commanding officer.

Students participating in AAS next year will have the chance to work with students and institutions across the country, setting the agenda for the honor society. Cadet Nathan Dahlseng will be leading the national effort after his leadership bid found success at this year’s NATCON. UND archival image.

Honor the past, prepare for the future

Maj. Carmen Sowers, an active duty member of UND’s ROTC staff and advisor to AAS and Silver Wings, likened UND’s election to AAS National Staff to a UND fraternity or sorority being chosen to set the agenda for their respective national organizations.

“At NATCON, their peers in attendance – representing squadrons and chapters from across the country – voted for them to lead through the next year,” Sowers said, referring to UND’s AAS squadron. “That means our local squadron now has the role of providing guidance at the national level, organizing trainings and events that will maintain the high quality of Arnold Air Society.”

Leading this national effort from UND will be Cadet Nathan Dahlseng, a rising senior and atmospheric sciences major originally from Dassel, Minn. He previously held the position of Region Commander for AAS’ Region VII, representing a majority of the Midwest, and before that Squadron Commander for UND’s squadron.

“When they said the name of our squadron, for who would be leading the national headquarters for the coming year, I only remember standing up and shaking as the crowd was roaring,” Dahlseng said. “When you put up a bid in such a large organization, with 2,500-plus people, you don’t think it’s going to be you.”

“In this case, you’re being elected by your peers by majority vote – deciding that you and your squadron would be the best fit to lead them,” he added. “That made it a special moment.”

Dahlseng and his UND cohort presented their leadership bid in front of NATCON and talked about their vision, as well as where they want to take the honor society.

“We made a case that leveraged our collective experience,” Dahlseng said. “I had experience at the region level, along with others in our squadron. And with AAS celebrating 75 years, we pitched our leadership as honoring the past yet preparing for the future.”

Specifically, Dahlseng and the rest of his national staff aim to review documents such as constitutions and manuals to find what’s outdated and what can be modernized to fit a changing world and military.

“We want to preserve the greater, foundational traditions and find ways to bring them to the present,” added Cadet Julian Flores, who will become UND’s Squadron Commander next fall, as a sophomore. “With Silver Wings starting on campus, and now that we’re able to resume more campus activities, we’re looking to do more than ever in promoting Silver Wings membership and working throughout the Grand Forks community.

“This year, in my opinion, is gearing up to be a good one for our organizations. We want to keep that going well into the future.”

For his part, Lt. Col. Evans sees the coming year as a rare opportunity for UND students involved in AAS and Silver Wings.

“Throughout the next academic year, our students will have unique opportunities to network with students from across the country,” Evans said. “Additionally, they’ll travel to Washington for a national business meeting and receive personal mentorship from very senior military and civilian leaders.

“The connections they make this upcoming year will benefit them regardless of how they choose to serve our nation.”