The human side of the military
CSU degree helps prepare alumnus for successful career in the U.S. Air Force
Jan. 9, 2020
Story by Kelsey Burket
Roland Rainey. Jr. (B.S., ‘03) refuses to waste a day. In fact, he is committed to taking advantage of every second of every day. Rainey is not only an active duty Lieutenant Colonel in the United States Air Force with 24 years of service, but he is also a previous semi-professional football team founder/owner, a Division II football coach, a professional football scout, and the father of three adorable girls. How does he juggle it all? Well, his degree in human development and family studies from Colorado State University has certainly prepared him to navigate both military and civilian life.
Growing up in Louisiana
Originally from the bayou of southern Louisiana, Rainey grew up focused on music and was a talented trombone player in his high school band and a John Phillip Sousa Award recipient. His family assumed he would go to college and study music. However, Rainey had other ideas. When an Air Force recruiter came to his high school in 1992, Rainey was hooked on the promise of adventure. After graduating from high school in 1993, Rainey signed up for the Air Force at the age 17.
In September of 1993, Rainey started boot camp at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas. After completing boot camp as an enlisted Airman, he received assignments to Malmstrom AFB in Great Falls, Montana, Osan Air Base in South Korea, and finally Ellsworth AFB in South Dakota. Once he arrived in South Dakota, Rainey was focused on his professional development and attended Airman Leadership School at the age of 24. At Airman Leadership School, Rainey was the recipient of the prestigious John L. Levitow Award. The Levitow award is presented to the student that demonstrates the most outstanding leadership and scholastic qualities. Levitow was the lowest ranked enlisted military member to ever receive a medal of honor for his heroism.
Instant connection to Human Development and Family Studies
After Rainey received the Levitow Award, he was selected to be an executive assistant to the highest-ranking enlisted member on base, the base command chief master sergeant. While serving in this role, one of Rainey’s mentors, Colonel Kenneth McKinney, encouraged him to pursue a commission as an Air Force Officer. Thanks to his mentor’s advice, Rainey applied to the Airman Scholarship and Commissioning Program (ASCP). Airmen selected for the ASCP are temporarily released from active duty and they receive scholarships of up to $15,000 per year to pursue their higher education goals. As soon as Rainey was accepted into the ASCP program, he set his sights on CSU.
The first time Rainey visited CSU, he fell in love with the campus, but more importantly, he felt an instant connection with the Department of Human Development and Family Studies.
“I have always been intrigued about the journey of life itself, so I was eager to take classes that examined human development across the lifespan,” he said.
Next, he met with human development and family studies assistant professor, Karen Rattenborg. Rattenborg sold Rainey on the versatility of the degree and with that, Rainey declared his major.
Once Rainey was on campus, he quickly found his home and campus community. He was very active in CSU’s Air Force ROTC program and served as the cadet wing commander. This experience allowed him to lead 200+ cadets. He also played club football. Little did he know at the time, this experience would make football a lifetime hobby and passion project. If that wasn’t enough to keep him busy, Rainey also worked part-time with the CSU Police Department as a safety officer.
In December of 2003, Rainey was selected by the Department of Human Development and Family Studies to be the student speaker at the fall 2003 graduation ceremony. You can watch his speech on YouTube. Following graduation, Rainey became an active duty officer and second lieutenant in the Air Force. He started his career as an officer working intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) operations and became an ICBM commander and chief of ICBM evaluations. Today, his specialties also include space operations, GPS satellite command and control, space surveillance, and space situational awareness.
Military’s human side
Rainey had several insights into how his degree in HDFS prepared him for his career in the military.
“The lessons I learned from studying human development and family studies helped me seamlessly transition from military life to civilian life,” he explained. “The courses helped me better understand and appreciate human interactions at a fundamental level and the curriculum gave me the tools to feel comfortable in different environments.”
Rainey says his degree also helped him to remember the human side of the military.
“The military culture can be very demanding and restrictive,” he said. “When you’re in the military, you need to be able to give and take orders. Sometimes you can lose sight of the human who is on the other side of those orders. The culture in the Department of Human Development and Family Studies was a 180-degree departure from the military. Studying this discipline helped me better understand and appreciate the human impact of giving and receiving orders. These lessons made me a better Airman, a better person and now, a better father.”
In 2008, Rainey was assigned to Schriever Air Force Base in Colorado Springs. During his time in Colorado Springs, he held roles including GPS satellite operator, GPS operations mission commander, flight commander, GPS senior crew evaluator, and wing executive officer.
Although his military career was demanding, Rainey decided to add more to his already full plate and focused on his hobby, football. In fact, from 2009-2014, Rainey founded and owned his own semi-professional football team, the Colorado Springs Cyclones. A pride point of Rainey’s was that his team played against the Air Force Academy twice.
Advice for current students
Rainey’s advice to current human development and family studies students is simple and heartfelt.
“Too often we live life just to exist instead of following our passions,” he said. “The best advice I can give, is make your own path and open every door that interests you. When there’s unchained passion for life, the sky is the limit. Remember – today is yours for the taking, and tomorrow is yours for the making.”
Currently, Rainey is the deputy director of the Commander’s Action Group for the brand-new U.S. Space Command at Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado Springs. Despite having this high-pressure job, he still finds time to embrace his passion for football. After he retires from the military, he hopes to become a full-time NFL scout and player consultant. His hobbies include fishing, golfing, flying Cessnas, and traveling with his family. Rainey currently lives in Colorado Springs with his wife, Summer, and their three daughters Madisyn, Makayla, and Mya (ages 12, 10 and 7).