Justin Humphrey, a senior civil engineering major, has been chosen to receive the Society of American Military Engineers ROTC Award of Merit as one of the top engineering students/ROTC cadets in the nation.
Humphrey, who is in the Air Force Reserve Officer Training Corps at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, is scheduled to formally receive the award April 30. He will begin his commission as an Air Force intelligence officer on May 9, the same day he expects to receive his engineering degree.
“It’s very prestigious, and it’s an honor to receive this award because there are probably five or so Air Force cadets around the country who are chosen,” Humphrey said.
The ROTC Award of Merit is given annually to up to 20 engineers/ROTC cadets (from Army, Navy or Air Force programs) from across the country. Recipients must be in the top 25% of their engineering and ROTC classes.
Recipients are selected through a central military service board for the Army, Navy and Air Force ROTC programs; work and achievements outside of academics are also considered.
Part of learning to be a leader, Humphrey said, is working to ensure the success of others. In addition to maintaining a 3.7 grade-point average, Humphrey has been a mentor and tutor to other engineering students and ROTC cadets, especially those also in engineering.
“I’ll meet with them a couple of times a week, mostly freshmen and sophomores who were struggling with their statics and dynamics classes, the ones most people tend to have trouble with,” Humphrey said. “I want to make sure those who might not have had to study much in high school are getting acclimated to the college environment. It’s a whole different animal.”
Growing up in an Air Force family, Humphrey attended high school in Nebraska and Alabama before graduating in Oklahoma. Enrolling at Nebraska, Humphrey said, was an easy decision.
“My brother was probably my best friend growing up, since we moved a lot,” Humphrey said. “He graduated from high school here (in Nebraska) and came to Lincoln for college. We moved right away. When I graduated, I checked into Nebraska, and they had the most to offer me — a great engineering education, an ROTC opportunity, and I’d get to see my brother.”
Studying engineering and training in the ROTC are both rigorous pursuits that put demands on a student’s schedule. A typical day includes waking up early, heading off to physical training with his ROTC unit, then off to engineering classes. After that, it’s more ROTC training, studying and finding time to eat and sleep. One semester, Humphrey had 18 credit hours of classes that included three lab sections.
All that, he said, was invaluable.
“I didn’t see it as a challenge, doing engineering and ROTC together,” Humphrey said. “Sure, it was difficult, but I don’t think I would have been able to succeed as much in college if I hadn’t done one of the two.”
When he graduates in May, Humphrey will begin working as an Air Force intelligence officer but still expects to use his civil engineering training, especially in the fields of transportation and city planning.
“As a student, I’ve primarily focused on transportation with some structural stuff, city planning, roadways, what allows people to move from point A to point B,” Humphrey said. “It’s really important to know about different areas and their infrastructures — how we can use them as an advantage or how it can be to our disadvantage.”