Detachment 538's history begins in 1981 when it was first proposed with the help of Colonel Andrew J. Dougherty as AFROTC Operating Location 535B. Colonel Dougherty was the Executive Assistant to the President of Rochester Institute of Technology at the time, and in these early days, he was instrumental in pushing support for Air and Space power on campus. The detachment quickly began growing, gaining an Arnold Air Society Squadron in 1986, and soon Operating Location 535B became a full-fledged detachment, being renamed Detachment 538 in 1989.
The detachment saw continued growth, making a move from the Eastman Building to its current location in Lewis P Ross Hall in 2005. In 2010, Detachment 538 won the AFROTC Northeast Region High Flight Award for medium-size detachments. This award is given to the highest performing detachment in each region.
Detachment 538's Arnold Air Society squadron and Silver Wings chapter has been setting the example at the regional and national levels. Arnold Air Society has held Area Headquarters for the northeast region in 1989, 1994, 2004, 2006, 2012, and 2015. The squadron also served as the National Headquarters in 2014. Silver Wings, re-activated in 2013, has also seen a lot of recent success, serving as the National Headquarters in 2015.
Today, Detachment 538 continues to strive for growth and excellence in everything that it does, commissioning some of the highest-caliber cadets in the nation. Each year, commissionees go on to serve as Pilots, Combat Systems Officers, Cyberspace Officers, Civil Engineers, Intelligence Officers, Maintenance Officers, Missile Officers, and more.
The Reserve Officer Training Corps program is made up of two main phases that span a cadet's academic career. These phases are split by Field Training, which occurs during the summer following a cadet's sophomore year. Each phase is also broken down by year level with specific required classes designed to teach and prepare cadets to eventually become an Air Force Officer. Refer to AFROTC for more information.