Lt. Col. Thomas Chae is departing as head of the UNM Army ROTC program at the end of the month to continue his military service at Fort Sill in Oklahoma.
Chae worked at UNM for two years—over half of which was encompassed by the pandemic.
“It wasn’t an easy time,” he said. “The campus community stuck together and tried to make the best of what we had.”
Chae said the challenges posed by the pandemic prompted entering into a virtual reality—one that students, staff and faculty adapted to quickly in order to meet the needs of the campus community.
“It forced us to learn how to teach in a more dispersed and remote environment,” Chae said. “We realized that we could be virtual for only so long, and we constantly had to adapt and challenge ourselves as faculty to ensure the cadets were getting the training and development they needed as future Army officers.”
Chae said he is proud of the collaborative work between the Army ROTC cadets and faculty who strived to do as much as possible surrounding the public health restrictions. He said he understands the Army ROTC asks a lot of its cadets, but reinforced the benefits, and the return on the time and effort they invest in the program is immeasurable.
“In most cases, the ROTC pays for some or all of a cadet’s college tuition,” he said. “It also sets them up for their future, whether in the Army or in life.”
Chae said UNM and Albuquerque will always hold a unique place in his heart.
“UNM is a great place to work and Albuquerque is a hidden gem,” he says. “My family and I have thoroughly loved being here and we will look fondly on our short time spent here.”
Major Jeff Meinders will take over the program beginning June 1.