Kevin Pond defies the image of a number crunching, pocket-protector-wearing, coffee-drinking mathematician.
Cadet Pond, a graduate student and teacher’s assistant in mathematics at UTD, is in the Reserve Officers Training Corp (ROTC) and has recently received his officer’s commission as a pilot.
The competitive commission is based on a combined score reflecting his GPA, a multitude of military tests, physical fitness evaluations and a ranking from his Cadet Commander, according to Major David Brown of the Dallas area ROTC.
Though Pond does not fit the stereotypical role of a mathematician, he said his academic training has fit in well with his military experience.
“Much like mathematics, I appreciate the military for its structure,” Pond said. “I like that you always know where you stand. In a room, you know who’s going to tell you what to do and who’s going to help you do it.”
Until graduation, Pond serves as a Flight Commander, giving him the responsibility for the training and care of about 15 other cadets, Brown said.
Pond said he likes the camaraderie ROTC brings when cadets are put to competitive and challenging tasks.
“When you are forced into these situations, you form bonds with your teammates,” Pond said.
He leads his flight in drills and games designed to build the sense of community and structure necessary in active duty, Brown said.
“Our cadets gain leadership experience in the same way many people in the work force gain experience, we have them actually do it. This works great, they learn theory and then instantly apply it” Brown said.
Though Pond is performing well and is rising in the Air Force ranks, he has not followed the traditional ROTC path, in which students join when entering college and pursue for the four years of their undergraduate education.
Pond’s circumstances were slightly different.
His grandfather served in World War II and joined the first US Air Force when it was formed. He said his grandfather showed him the glory and honor of military service.
Pond’s father had a slightly different experience while serving in Vietnam, Pond said. His father wanted to make sure that Pond would have and education and career options outside of the military.
Pond could not shake the sense of family history and the thought of flying the skies, he said.
“Once I graduated and fulfilled the wishes of my father, I felt free to reexamine my military options,” Pond said.
He joined ROTC as a graduate student and the program is now paying for his graduate tuition.
Pond will soon graduate ROTC and after the very competitive pilot’s school, Pond will serve an 11-year commission in the United States Air Force.