by Steve Kotecki
21st Space Wing Public Affairs
When Marine Staff Sgt. Drew Rontti was getting close to the end of his second enlistment as a supply specialist, he started looking into ways to broaden his military career. After working with the contracting resource manager while on deployment, he decided to become an officer, in the Air Force.
Being born on the 4th of July, 1st Lt. Drew Rontti, 21st Space Wing executive officer, felt he was always destined to serve his country.
“In 2005-2006, the war was really in full swing, a lot of my friends were enlisting, and I decided to as well,” said Rontti, a native of Elk River, “I wanted to join the infantry, but at the time everyone was enlisting for infantry.” He ended up getting selected as a supply specialist.
“Once I got in and went through training, I was stationed in Okinawa with the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit,” said Rontti.
“I’ve deployed a few times, once to a bunch of Asian countries and once to Afghanistan.”
While Rontti was deployed, he started talking with an Air Force resource manager and became interested in the opportunities that the Air Force could provide. He was able to complete his degree between deployments and thought about becoming an officer.
He attended Officer Training School at Maxwell Air Force Base in 2013. After graduating from OTS, he was assigned as a contracting officer at Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado.
While Rontti has enjoyed his time in the Air Force, he does miss the Marine Corps on occasion.
“There’s a difference between the Air Force and the Marines, it’s hard to pinpoint exactly what it is, but it is there, it’s almost like the difference between two cultures,” Rontti explained.
“It’s not even just the difference between the way that the two branches do things, it goes deeper than that and is hard to explain.”
One thing the Air Force has to offer is an easier time accessing the opportunities available to him.
“I don’t want to say there aren’t the same amount of opportunities in the Marines, but it’s a lot harder to find out about them,” said Rontti. “In the Air Force, I’ve noticed that, your bosses are pushing all kinds of programs at you, all you have to do is take advantage of them.”
One of the opportunities he’s taken advantage of is becoming a junior executive officer. Rontti was selected to be the junior executive officer to Col. Doug Schiess the 21st Space Wing commander.
“I like being an executive officer,” he began. “It’s a lot of hard work, but it gives me a different perspective on how things work on the command side. It’s been eye-opening,”
In the future, he’s looking forward to getting back to leading Airmen.
“Being around and interacting with the troops and watching them succeed is a really rewarding experience,” said Rontti.
As he enters his fourth year in the Air Force, he looks back and ponders his decision.
“Overall for me, switching from the Marines to the Air Force has been the best move I could make.” Rontti explained. “It might not be for everyone, but I would make the same choice again if given it.”