UNL Air Force ROTC Detachment Earns Top Spot as the #1 Small Detachment in the Nation in 2023

March 1, 2024


Written by: Capt Matthew Smith

After helping cadets earn spots in some of the most competitively selective programs in the country and delivering top tier talent to the Air Force, Detachment 465 at University of Nebraska-Lincoln becomes one of three top Air Force ROTC Detachments out of the 145 in the nation for the first time in over 15 years.


The University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s Air Force ROTC Detachment proudly secured the prestigious Small Detachment of the Year title after competing among other top finalists across the nation, solidifying its commitment to excellence and dedication to shaping the best leaders of character of tomorrow. For some background context, ROTC is a 4-year program that full-time students can participate in with the purpose of commissioning as an officer in 1 of the 5 military branches (Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force, & Space Force) upon graduation. It is a highly competitive program that is designed to challenge cadets’ physical, emotional, and mental capacity and prepare them to take on an immediate leadership position in the military. 

ROTC is the largest commissioning source nationwide and routinely commissions more than two times as many Lieutenants as the US Air Force Academy on an annual basis. There are over 145 Air Force ROTC Detachments across the country that commission roughly 2,000 Lieutenants each year. Not only are there high academic and character standards that cadets must maintain, but they must remain physically fit as well. The average GPA for an ROTC cadet is roughly a 3.5 while the average physical fitness test scores above a 90 on a 100-point scale. The room for error and the ability to stand out among a nation of the most talented and academically inclined individuals is no easy feat. 

Being recognized as the top Detachment in the nation speaks volumes to the talent and level of commitment these cadets and staff have put in to their deliberate development. Currently it is reported that the armed forces are facing recruiting challenges going into 2024, but at Det 465 the success of the program continues to attract top-tier talent across the country year in and year out.  

Pet The Jet

The major graded areas used to shape this year’s award consisted of 5 categories: Production, Education, Recruiting and Retention, University and Public Relations and Cadet Activities. 

Det 465 currently hovers around 50 students enrolled in its program. Last year, they produced a modest, yet extremely talented 6 Second Lieutenants. All of them competed and were selected for very competitive careers such as pilots & combat systems officers with two being among the top tier of pilot trainees selected for Euro-NATO Joint Jet Pilot Training, one of which earned an opportunity to further his education by pursuing a fully funded master’s degree in operations research before attending training. The remaining 3 students were selected into other highly competitive programs with 2 headed to a fully funded dental school and 1 selected among the very few picked for Special Investigations. Additionally, Det 465 produced the top ranked cadet of 401 students completing last summer’s training evaluation period. Plus, the organization gained its second ever direct commission into the newly established Space Force. Not only did the students of Det 465 accomplish incredible feats, but the staff earned significant awards themselves throughout the year across their Region and Headquarters helping make the case for building a well-rounded team that is committed to personal and professional development.

One of the unique experiences of ROTC is that throughout the year, ROTC students get exposure to hear from senior leaders at symposiums and conferences to listen to key messages from senior leaders such as the Secretary of the Air Force or the Chief of Space Operations. Additionally, they routinely receive opportunities to visit bases across the country gaining firsthand experience from senior leaders usually covering base operations and key insights into national defense. It is not uncommon to enjoy flying in an aircraft from time to time on some of the most advanced and lethal aircraft in the world while on these visits. 


When asked what winning this prestigious award meant to her, Junior Cadet Raen Lubben said, “It further affirms what we all have known which is that Detachment 465 is one of the strongest ROTC programs… ROTC is not an easy program,” she continued, “but nevertheless the 42 cadets who are currently apart of Det 465 pour their hearts and souls into it. For them to be recognized in such a large way should only further validate their hard work and commitment to become the highest quality future leaders for the Air and Space Force.” Cadet Lubben is the Cadet Wing Commander and is responsible for leading the Detachment students through the experiential leadership training program while ensuring strategic objectives are met throughout the semester. Raen is also a Forensic Science Major, volleyball coach for Volleyball Club Nebraska, and aspires to become a Security Forces Officer upon completing her degree.

There are no monetary bonuses or grand prizes for winning this type of award. However, it does continue to build pride in the work that these cadets put into the program. These are the students that have at a very early stage in their life decided they wanted to be a part of something that was bigger than themselves and they are committed to take on a leadership role in the Armed Forces immediately upon graduation. From flying a multi-million-dollar aircraft to overseeing Space Operations and acquiring equipment for a multibillion-dollar project, these cadets will be prepared to take on their first job. This path is not for the faint of heart and the hard work these young men and women put in now will pay dividends in the future for themselves and their nation.

Detachment 465 would not succeed without the incomparable support it receives from the University, the administrators, the athletic department, the alumni, the Military & Veterans Success Center, our Army and Navy ROTC counterparts, the Nebraska Air and Army National Guard units, and the community. Their commitment to not our cadets’ success is unwavering. Det 465 is eternally grateful for their support. If you are interested in learning more about the program, please visit our website or reach out to their team at afrotc@unl.edu