Pork Care Packages Delivered to Midshipmen of Iowa State's NROTC
“There is a subconscious thought around the dinner table when a person is eating pork they purchased with these coupons,” said Dan Buhr, Executive Officer of the NROTC program at Iowa State University. “You sit down, say a prayer for the food and thank the Deb and Jeff Hansen Foundation for helping provide it. I don’t think you can conceptualize how much of a difference these coupons really make for some of these students.”
Buhr is talking about the students enrolled in the NROTC program at Iowa State University who are starting their military career in the exact same place he did 30 years ago.
Upon entry into the NROTC program, students are designated “midshipmen” and assigned to a squad and platoon within the NROTC Battalion. It is there that they learn basic military skills such as close order drill, time management, leadership, and the use of a chain of command. Almost immediately, midshipmen are given responsibilities and within a year will have held a leadership position.
“The reality is these students very much serve all day, every day,” said Buhr. “They are serving right now in hopes they can go spend the rest of their life, or at least a small part of their career, serving their country.”
When a student enrolls in an ROTC program, it is commonly thought he or she is considered active duty, but, in fact, they are not. Through vigorous daily training and involvement in fundraisers and other activities, midshipmen are serving each day. Just not directly on the field.
“They train at a very high capacity because they will be expected to serve at a high capacity,” said Buhr. “It is really neat that you offer these coupons to help them out while going through college.”
As a way of saying thank you for their service, the Deb and Jeff Hansen Foundation and Iowa Select Farms have delivered Pork Care Packages to midshipmen at Iowa State for the past three years. Inside the packages, there are $40 worth of pork coupons. Each year, the coupons are given to the midshipmen, and their guest, at the Navy and Marine Corps Ball.
“These pork coupons make our ball even more special,” Buhr explained. “They are a way of recognizing a group that is not considered veterans nor active duty. They are kind of the lost person who is serving our country. Iowa Select Farms has really stepped in and made a difference as an organization that recognizes the service and sacrifice of these students.”
In addition to the NROTC program at Iowa State, every member of all Iowa military units also received Pork Care Packages with $40 worth of coupons good for various pork products, including fresh pork, ham, ribs, bacon, and ground pork, equating to $480,000 in free pork.
Pork Care Packages were also delivered to the Iowa National Guard's Survivor Outreach Services for 600 Iowa families of fallen soldiers.
The NROTC program at Iowa State is unique in that they only train warriors, also known as unrestricted line officers. This means when students graduate, they will go out on submarines and ships, become a navy seal or serve in explosive ordinance disposal. Buhr says unrestricted officers can do anything and will be “tip-of-the-spear” kind of officers.
“These midshipmen are the cream of the crop,” explained Buhr. “On average, our students have a 29 ACT score and receive some sort of scholarship that was likely competed for on a national level.”
But it isn’t just academics where midshipmen excel.
“These students also have to be physical specimens. People don’t realize how hard we train them,” Buhr continued. “On day one we throw them in a pool and try to drown them. We expect them to come in the door ready to go. Our theory is to get them in, train them and show them the basics, then we have four or five years to slowly train them to be the person we want them to be after graduation.”
After his retirement in June of 2018, Buhr will have served our country for 30 years. Mostly being involved in aviation during his service, Buhr thought it only made sense for him to end his career training the next generation of officers and pilots. In 2014, Buhr decided to return to Iowa State to take on the next part of his career, in the place his own military service began. “I have met a lot of fantastically gifted humans here,” Buhr said. “They are all uniquely gifted and the talent we put out usually does very well. It’s amazing to feel like you are a part of making that person who is going to go out there and make a difference for our country.”