Walter Want 64 always wanted to fly airplanes. That dream became reality at age 20 when he enrolled in a primary pilot training program at New Mexico State University. While the campus airstrip may no longer exist, the core principles the ROTC instilled in Want at NMSU helped him to reach new heights.
Under the provisions of the Morrill Act of 1862, NMSUs Army ROTC program was established in 1902, and 44 years later, the NMSU Air Force ROTC was created. These programs have impacted the lives and careers of alumni who trained during the Vietnam era.
A little over 40 percent of our pilots did not come home, Want says. I flew primarily solo reconnaissance missions in a small FAC airplane, day and night, in all kinds of weather, with the primary mission of search and rescue when others were shot down.
Raised by a single parent, Want grew up on a small farm in Anthony, N.M. In 1960, he joined the ROTC because a two-year stint was mandatory for all men attending land-grant institutions. Motivated by patriotism, pride and a $65 monthly stipend, he applied to the full credit program at the end of that period.
They provided a very structured base, which led me to success in whatever I did, Want says. That philosophy carried me for a long time, because ROTC molds individuals into leaders and successful groups to get the job done.
Want served five years of active duty in the U.S. Air Force where he trained on T-37s and went on to fly T-38s and B-52s before flying forward air controller missions over Laos during the Vietnam War.
After military service, Want spent his life working in construction, manufacturing safety and general safety, with a primary emphasis on working at elevation. He worked with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, and later established a marketing agency that focused on the tools and equipment used in projects while working at elevation.
Want, who received a bachelors in agricultural economics, sold his successful company in 2004, and now works in safety consulting, training and accident investigations. He also serves as an expert witness in his field. Today, Want lives near Portland, Ore., with his wife of 46 years, and is proud to say he never flew a plane he couldnt land.
Another NMSU alumnus enrolled in the ROTC program after receiving a 1A induction notice from the draft board in 1963. To finish college, Ben Holstein 68 signed an advance notice, which meant the military could have him after he received his degree.
Holstein was a member of the Counter Guerillas, an ROTC group that had additional tactical training, wore berets and bloused their khakis.
The ROTC taught me a lot about people, Holstein says. It prepared me in life for a lot of things that I had to face down the road. They werent catastrophic things; they were just things you had to face in life.
He graduated with a bachelors in business administration and was commissioned into the U.S. Army as a training officer for missile specialists who worked with the Nike-Hercules air defense system.
The Hercules system was the last line of defense against the Russian bombers, Holstein says. Once it got past us, it was over.
When his service to the country ended, Holstein returned to Las Cruces and began a 30-year career in banking after graduating from the Southwestern Graduate School of Banking in the early 1980s.
In an occupation that engaged the community, he became a member of the Lions Club and the Rio Grande Gas Board. He has served on school and hospital boards and city development committees. Additionally, he devoted time to the Boys and Girls Club and the Boy Scouts. Holstein has held a contractors license for 25 years, and currently works in land development.
I think that the military training that I got had a major impact on my life, Holstein says. When I went to work at Mutual Building and Loan, my boss was a vet from WWII in the South Pacific, and they wanted former military officers, because they had discipline.
Gary Cataldo 70 came to NMSU after serving in the enlisted ranks of the U.S. Army for three years. With aspirations of teaching high school history, he enrolled in the ROTC program for an easy grade, but instead gained a two-year scholarship, a regular army commission and a 21-year career.
I got the A, but it wasnt easy, Cataldo says. Also, books and tuition, plus the monthly stipend for enrolling in the advanced course, sounded very good, especially to someone on the GI Bill, making $10 on Saturdays working at the local feed mill.
Upon graduation, Cataldo, also a member of the Counter Guerillas, was commissioned into the U.S. Army where he later served in positions from platoon leader to the Department of the Army staff. The career military man traveled the world before retiring as a lieutenant colonel.
In 1991, Cataldo entered civilian life when he took his leadership and management experience and expertise in training and consulting to a variety of activities. These included safety training for the U.S. Coast Guard, supplier assessment at Mitsubishi automotive and manufacturing process improvement for a John Deere subsidiary.
It was consistent with what the Army provided me, a variety of job experiences in different places, Cataldo says.
Cataldo, who received his bachelors in economics, currently works as an adjunct professor at Park University in Austin, Texas, where he teaches human resources management and economics courses. He continues to work with his supplier assessment software program, and has turned his picture framing hobby into a part-time business.
Army ROTC gave me a rewarding career, an opportunity to make a difference, and a life-long commitment to service, Cataldo says. Everyone should be so lucky.
His continuing commitment to service is reflected in his membership in the Austin Oak Hill Chapter of Rotary International, where he was past president and is the current project chairperson.
In 2000, Cataldo founded NMSUs Army ROTC Alumni Chapter to support todays Corp of Cadets and currently serves as president. (See more about the chapter in the Alumni Update on pages 24-27.)
Evans Garcia was proud to be a New Mexican and equally proud of his brief Aggie career at New Mexico College of Agriculture and Mechanic Arts in the mid-1930s. Economic challenges later prompted him to volunteer for the Army. His unit was sent to the Philippines a few months before the start of World War II.
Captured by the Japanese, he endured the Bataan Death March and three years in a prison camp.
Garcia stayed active in the Santa Fe Bataan Veterans Association. He regularly attended the White Sands Bataan marathon sponsored by the NMSU ROTC. In 2007, his family surprised him by establishing a scholarship for an ROTC student at NMSU in his name. When Garcia passed away at the age of 96, his daughter Margaret established a permanent endowment to support an ROTC cadet attending the summer leadership training program.
Command Sgt. Maj. Michael W. Jefferson didnt have a personal connection with New Mexico State University. His distinguished 26-year Army career brought him to El Paso, Texas, and he remained after retirement working with the El Paso Intelligence Center.
When he learned he had pancreatic cancer in 2009, he and his wife Shirley wanted to create something that would have a permanent impact on the future. His Aggie daughter and son-in-law suggested a scholarship fund for Army ROTC students. The family created a website and within a year they met their initial funding goal. Friends and family members continue to build this fund, which is currently awarding nearly $800 a year to an ROTC cadet.