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Molinaroli College of Engineering and Computing

  • Mechanical engineering students and Air Force ROTC member Lawton Crooks.

Balancing engineering and ROTC responsibilities

Meet Lawton Crooks, a determined mechanical engineering student from Ridgeway, South Carolina. His college journey takes a unique path as he is also a member of the  University of South Carolina's Air Force ROTC (Reserve Officer Training Program). When asked about his motivation to join the ROTC program, Lawton shared that his initial aspiration was to become a pilot. Opting for ROTC over enlisting into the Air Force, he saw the program as an excellent opportunity to pursue his dreams while simultaneously gaining a quality education and valuable experience. 

Despite his military commitments, Lawton has managed to strike a balance between academics and ROTC responsibilities. By prioritizing tasks based on importance and urgency, he has successfully navigated the challenges, which allow him to enjoy a college experience similar to any typical student. 

Participating in the ROTC program has significantly impacted Lawton's personal and professional growth. Notably, he attributes his increased confidence and understanding of followership to his time in ROTC, recognizing these qualities as essential attributes of a good leader.   

Looking ahead, ROTC has offered Lawton profound insight into his future. As he gains experience and knowledge about being an officer, particularly a pilot, he envisions spending a substantial amount of time in the military – potentially ten years or more.   

Through ROTC, Lawton has had the privilege of interacting with active-duty military personnel and veterans, from retired high-ranking officers to those currently serving. These encounters have deeply influenced him, fostering a compelling sense of pride and dedication to serving in the U.S. military. The shared experiences and wisdom of these remarkable individuals have motivated Lawton to become a great leader for the selfless men and women who choose to serve.   

For others considering joining the ROTC program, Lawton's advice is simple yet powerful. He encourages them to dip their toes in and explore opportunities first-hand like base tours or conversations with ROTC cadre. Once committed, he emphasizes going all in and investing the effort needed to excel in ROTC, knowing that the rewards will be beneficial for the future. 

Lawton's choice of joining the USC ROTC program was driven by its affiliation with Midlands Tech. He expresses no regrets about this decision, cherishing the camaraderie and support he has found within Detachment 775 (his ROTC unit). The exceptional people he has met through ROTC have become an inspiring crew, pushing each other to strive for excellence in all endeavors and forming a community of like-minded individuals.  

Lawton Crooks is a shining example of a student who balances his academic pursuits with a strong commitment to ROTC. We wish him the best in his future endeavors, both in his engineering studies and his journey as a potential military officer and pilot. With his determination and dedication, there is no doubt that Lawton will soar to great heights in whatever path he chooses.

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