WICHITA, Kan. – Cadre and cadets of the Wichita State University Army Reserve Officer Training Corps can normally be found at Glen Dey Park on Wednesdays conducting tactical training like calling for fire or practicing 9-line medical evacuations. But on April 28, they decided to do something very different.
“Today the cadets wanted to take it upon themselves to give back to the community,” said Capt. Scot Mullis, WSU ROTC assistant professor of military science, Kansas Army National Guard. “During the course of our training we noticed that there’s quite a bit of trash out here. It’s right off the highway, right behind a big residential area, so the cadets wanted to do some cleaning up in an area that we use quite often.”
“We haven’t covered all the areas of the park yet, but I think we’ve got a lot of work to do,” said second-year cadet Alexandria Stegman, who grew up in Wichita. “This will help us better operate during our labs, and help the community to have better enjoyment of the park.”
Armed with trash bags, gloves, trash pickers, and positive attitudes, the students spent several hours combing the park picking up everything from gum wrappers to a kiddie pool, accumulating a sizeable pile of waste to be hauled off by the end of the day.
“We wanted to show that, being in uniform, we’re not here just to blow stuff up and make a lot of noise,” Mullis joked. “We’re actually here to make a difference. We want to show that we’re part of the community and that we’re here to make a positive and proactive change within it.”
Mullis noted that although event participation was completely voluntary, 100% of the students showed up to contribute, offering to dedicate some of their limited free time even as finals week draws near.
“It comes down to selfless service,” Mullis said. “It’s something you’re not seeing a lot of today. These cadets are out here wanting to do something for more than themselves, to benefit an entire community. It’s very impressive.”
During the event, the cadets even drew the attention and thanks of a community member belonging to the “ICT Park Pickers,” described on their Facebook page as “a resource for like-minded citizens of Wichita who dare to imagine Wichita's beautiful parks free of litter.”
“I think this is important, especially with everything that’s going on right now, people spending more time outside and social distancing,” said first-year cadet and life-long Wichita resident Tammy Tran. “Overall it makes the community look nicer and we’re doing something good for the environment as well. Volunteering not only shows you are doing something for your community, but it also builds teamwork. I think it really does have a big impact.”
Both Stegman and Tran plan to commission as officers into the Kansas Army National Guard upon graduation and to live and work in their home state.
“Being in the Guard – obviously right now I’m a cadet - but once I become an officer, I can lead my own unit to contribute to the community,” Stegman said. “I think this is just the start.”