Lt. Col. Ira Cline has come full circle. The former New Mexico State University cadet has returned to Las Cruces after 19 years to lead NMSU's Air Force ROTC. The new Detachment 505 commander took the top post July 11 for a two-year tour, and will oversee more than 75 cadets and cadre.
"It's a great opportunity to give back, not only to NMSU, but also to Air Force ROTC," Cline said. "This is where I got my start in the Air Force, so I feel a real connection here, and want to make sure that I'm giving back 100 percent to cadets and faculty."
Cline earned his commission in 1994. As the top mentor and professor of aerospace studies in the College of Arts and Sciences, he is responsible for educating cadets, preparing them for active duty service and instilling the core values of the U.S. Air Force.
"My focus with the cadets is pretty simple," Cline said. "To get them to understand that mindset and mentally prepare them to become leaders. I want them to understand that everything that they do is important, and that they are going to affect people's lives along the way."
Cline began his career as a logistics plans officer at Tinker Air Force Base, Okla.
He spent a year in Germany at the USAFE Warrior Preparation Center, and then attended specialized undergraduate pilot training at Laughlin Air Force Base, Texas, where he was selected as the class's distinguished graduate and became a pilot.
His first operational flying assignment was at McChord Air Force Base in Washington. He flew a C-141B, before serving as an instructor aircraft commander and initial cadre member of the C-17A Prime Nuclear Airlift Force.
His next assignment was at Charleston Air Force Base, where he served in multiple leadership positions including squadron operations officer, operations group executive officer and deputy chief of wing plans.
From there, he became a squadron commander at the United States Air Force Academy in Colorado, before returning to McChord Air Force Base, as the squadron director of operations.
Cline is a senior rated pilot with more than 3,600 flight hours. He holds a bachelor's of business administration from NMSU, an MBA in international business from Touro University International in California, and a master's in counseling and leadership from the University of Colorado. He is the recipient of the Meritorious Service Medal with three oak leaf clusters and an Air Medal with three oak lusters. He and his wife Sheila of 19 years met while going to school at NMSU. They have two children, Kaylee and Nathan.
"This could potentially be my last assignment, so if it is, what a great storybook way to begin and end a career," Cline said.
Cline replaces Lt. Col. Daniel Bennett who transferred to Peterson Air Force Base, Colorado to continue working in communications.
"It's a big responsibility," Cline said. "People are looking to me to have answers, but at the same time I'm learning as well. The key thing is that I'm setting the example."