Cadet Wing commander: Cadet 1st Class Reuben Luoma-Overstreet chats about priorities, leadership

  • Published
  • By Amber Baillie
  • Academy Spirit staff writer
Twenty hours after being born, Cadet 1st Class Reuben Luoma-Overstreet crossed the U.S. border to Tijuana, Mexico where he lived with his parents for the next six months.

Mexico, Benin, South Africa, Nicaragua and Fiji are just a few countries Luoma-Overstreet journeyed to with his two sisters, his mother and father who serves as a Foreign Service officer for the U.S. State Department. After visiting about 50 countries, Luoma-Overstreet, who assumed command of the Cadet Wing Jan. 7, said through his rich cultural experiences, he's gained a deeper appreciation for the U.S., has desired to be a part of the Air Force, and has become the highest ranking cadet at the Academy, serving as a link between the Academy senior staff and the 4,000 cadets.
"My travels and experiences overseas are the reason I want to be in the Air Force," he said. "I've heard a lot about what foreigners think of the U.S. from the most critical to positive perspective. From critiquing obesity in the U.S. to flag-burning in our country, the one overarching thing I've heard, especially in developing areas of the world, is that people appreciate our freedoms in the U.S., such as freedom of the press. They look up to our democracy."

Luoma-Overstreet said because of foreigners' feedback he's valued the U.S. more and what it stands for. Luoma-Overstreet, an environmental engineering major here, arrived at the Academy in 2010 and soon joined the forensics team. He's currently the team captain and said it's a commitment he truly cares about.

"When I attended tryouts, everyone on the team was well-read and informed about the news," Luoma-Overstreet said. "Being on the team has pushed me to know more about what's happening in the world and to think critically about what the Academy does, what the United States does."

Luoma-Overstreet has taken advantage of leadership opportunities exemplified while a cadet. During his sophomore year, he served as the Academy's group chief clerk; in his junior year he served as the wing command chief. He's also served as the flight commander for Cadet Squadron 07 and is currently the president of the Tau Beta Pi chapter here, an honors society for engineers.
"I've always sought out leadership roles," he said. "I want to be able to do something for organizations I care about, especially if I see changes that need to be made. I think it's important to get perspective on the wing, group and squadron levels. I think it's important to have a variety of jobs in what interests you."

Luoma-Overstreet said he thinks training at the Academy is very four-degree centric.

"I think here, at a military Academy, training should be something you undergo all four years," he said. "I think there's a bit of a misconception that training is something you're done with as soon as you go through Recognition and complete your first year here. That's a big thing I want to change as cadet wing commander."

Luoma-Overstreet said another one of his priorities includes making sure cadets learn how to do their jobs properly.

"It was a focus last semester and something I want to continue to improve," he said. "The commander should technically be in charge of all who are under them. For example, if leaders in charge of training say 'I'm running this program' and the commander remains hands-off, the commander isn't implementing a vision across all elements. Everything should be united under a commander's goal without separate mission elements doing their own thing."

Luoma-Overstreet said he wants to establish community partnerships at the Academy while in charge of the Cadet Wing.
"We're looking to partner each squadron with a community organization," he said. "I want squadron commanders to call up an organization and say, 'Hey, we'd like to partner with you and build a commitment.' I think that will establish meaningful commitments and when we participate in community service events, we'll be able to participate in long-lasting projects and build ties with these organizations."

Luoma-Overstreet said he's unable to execute his commander goals if he doesn't have the support of the four group commanders he closely works with.

"I appreciate them and they help me implement my vision," he said. "They're absolutely key in implementing any sort of change. If they're not on board with me, I'm not able to get things done."

As of Tuesday, Luoma-Overstreet said the Cadet Wing is no longer performing dorm inspections in the evenings.

"We've wanted to change that process for a while and are in a trial period," he said. "We're moving away from checking every cadet at night and trusting them to be where they're supposed to. We're checking people at breakfast and have emphasized to cadets and commanders that they're responsible for their people and we want to treat them like adults. Freshman cadets are still being checked at night."

Following graduation, Luoma-Overstreet said he plans to be a part of the Air Force Office of Special Investigations program.
"I'm going to get to see how the Air Force works behind the scenes," he said. "I think it's important to deal with people who have somewhat given our Air Force a bad name. We need to deal with those people to improve our Air Force." Luoma-Overstreet said he's admired his father (currently stationed in Poland) and his service to the U.S. "I want to do something for my country but not the same way my dad has," he said. "By serving in the military, I feel I'll be able to do something for my country that's concrete and allows me to travel."

Commandant of Cadets Brig. Gen. Gregory Lengyel said Luoma-Overstreet has a tremendous work ethic and a powerful vision for the Cadet Wing that is completely in-sync with his vision as the commandant.

"I've had five great cadet wing commanders in my tenure, and I'm sure that Reuben is going to live up to the high standards of his predecessors," Lengyel said. "I'm really looking forward to working with him and the rest of the cadet leadership this semester."