Newspaper article The Tuscaloosa News

ROTC Members Ready to Guard Homecoming Bonfire

Newspaper article The Tuscaloosa News

ROTC Members Ready to Guard Homecoming Bonfire

Article excerpt

TUSCALOOSA | The work was done, the bonfire complete. Now, the real job begins.

On Tuesday, the Air Force Reserve Officers' Training Corps at the University of Alabama began its watch over the wooden structure it spent hours building that morning. With nothing more than a few pop- up tents and some chairs, the cadets will spend the next three days standing guard over the area to ensure the structure is not tampered with or lit prematurely.

While the cadets earn volunteer hours, many help out because they have fun. In years past, the cadets rolled out extension cords, plugging in televisions and video game systems, creating somewhat of a tailgate party atmosphere, but 19-year-old Cadet III Class Richard Ledson said his crew did not have those luxuries last year.

"We apparently weren't that prepared," he said. "But we're planning a bit better this year."

Ledson plans to bring a light-up Frisbee to throw around while standing guard, even though he is not able to stay out all night this year.

"Even without TVs, it's fun," said the UA sophomore. "Anyone from the ROTC can come down and hang out, and you get to spend a lot of time just talking to people you may not know that well, maybe older members or younger cadets. It's a good way to build camaraderie."

The ROTC unit has been involved in all aspects of the Capstone's homecoming bonfire, from design to construction to serving as watchdog, for as long as most can remember.

"It's a great way to be part of the university, and it's a great recruiting tool for us," said Cadet Col. Francisco Paulino. "We've very proud to be able to build and guard the bonfire year after year."

With about 400 wooden pallets donated by Cottondale Wood Products, the cadets typically begin construction early in the week. The design is simple -- a pyramid-style structure, no higher than 20 feet and no wider than 25 feet, with air pockets that allow oxygen in to feed the fire. They also build it on a base of sand to help alleviate damage to the ground.

Although the construction process is not a difficult one, there are a few challenges, namely the various shapes and sizes of the pallets. …

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