UF's Air Force ROTC is flying high after its national award.

It received the Right of Line Award, which ranks it as the top program of its size in the nation.

Maj. Craig Heitzler, an assistant professor in aerospace studies, said UF's Air Force ROTC Detachment 150 competed with about 50 other programs for the award.

The award was based on training, education and recruitment efforts, he said.

Heitzler said students, or cadets, participate in field training where they assume roles similar to real Air Force jobs and learn how to cope in high-pressure situations.

UF's Air Force ROTC also makes its Career Day event open to the public, unlike programs at other universities. It brings in active-duty Air Force officers who talk about their jobs to any students interested in joining the Air Force, including those not involved in ROTC.

"Maybe other universities do what we do, but then we take it to the higher level," he said.

Heitzler has been at UF for a short time but hopes to help UF secure the award in the future.

"I definitely want to continue the winning tradition that we have here and do the best I can in helping the cadets achieve their goals," he said.

He said UF's Air Force ROTC also won the award in 2007 but was ineligible for the Right of Line in 2008 because programs cannot win two years in a row.

Lori Bowen, UF's Air Force ROTC cadet wing commander, said UF's program hosts leadership activities, and a Veterans Day ceremony helps set it apart from others.

Bowen said the award was the result of a team effort between students, professors and officers.

Maj. James Bodnar, commandant of cadets for the UF's Air Force ROTC, said the award will set the cadets apart as they compete for careers in the Air Force.

He said the UF's Air Force ROTC program gives cadets hands-on military training, including urban warfare and team-building exercises at Camp Blanding, to help prepare them for their roles as Air Force officers.

Bodnar said the win helps to motivate UF's Air Force ROTC professors and students.

"On all levels, it helps us maintain focus because it's a lot of work both for the professors here and for the students here," Bodnar said.

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