AFPC selects AFROTC cadet for OSI

Left: AFROTC Lieutenant Colonel Mark Trudeau, Center: NCOIC - Tech Sgt. Andrea Scherlin, Right: AFROTC cadet and CSU student Toby Schelling. This is a story about a photo, a moment captured in time.
At first glance, the image above appears to be a byproduct of another story. It would be safe to assume this photo is part of greater series of images, with this one being a throw away, left on the editing floor or filed away to collect dust in the corner of an overstuffed, underventilated, windowless archival basement office.
But no, this is the moment; a life-changing moment. How many of us can say we have a photographic record of those precious few moments, when decisions were announced or choices were made that would change our lives forever? This image does just that. It’s a still, life on pause, capturing the end of a year-long journey and the beginning of a professional life filled with promise.
Charleston Southern University AFROTC cadet Toby Schelling, the young man on the right in the photo, arrived on campus in August 2008 on a mission. His dream was to be a pilot.
After breezing through his first year, claiming the No. 1 rank in his detachment class, Schelling was selected for pilot training by CSU AFROTC Lieutenant Colonel Mark Trudeau. That was easy – almost too easy. No turbulence, no red tape. Schelling was on the fast track. He hopped the next flight to Brooks City Air Force Base in Texas to complete a routine physical.
“I was disqualified due to eyesight,” he said. It took Schelling one year to build his dream and in the blink of an eye – literally – it was foiled.
Adversity stands you up or buckles you at the knees. For Schelling, the rebound was dizzying. The consolation prize was another opportunity as a Logistics Readiness Officer. “I was like, what?” he said. “I didn’t even know what an LRO does.”
Schelling responded to disappoint with a positive attitude; at least he could live and work in the Air Force at a location he would enjoy, right? Wrong. Schelling was assigned to Fairfield Air Force Base. “I’m going from Charleston, South Carolina, to Spokane, Washington, from warm to gosh awful cold and rain,” he said.
His professional life seemed to be spiraling out of control, but if anyone knew the right time to eject it was the wannabe pilot. Instead, he just let go to faith. Following a failed physical, then relocation to the Northwest, Schelling realized a greater force was at work.
“I was selected LRO for a reason,” he said. “I guess that’s what the good Lord has intended for me to do. I’m not going to back out on Him. Apparently, His intention for me flying an aircraft is not what He wants me to do. There’s no point trying to fight to get what I want to do. Maybe there’s something waiting for me as a Logistics Readiness Officer that I don’t know about.”
There was, only Schelling hadn’t made the connection yet.
Last summer he was sent to Wright-Patterson Air Force Base on temporary duty. The three-week trip assignment included training with the Office of Special Investigations Professional Development (OSIPDT).
“The first week I was in counter-intelligence, the second week I was in major crimes unit, and the third week and my last week we had an interview,” remembers Schelling.
Curious, Schelling wanted to interview for, if nothing else, the experience. “My situation would have been different if I had applied for OSI,” he said. “If you interview for a position you maybe have some anxiety. But since I never applied, I went in relaxed. It was a great experience.”
In hindsight, the interview was anything but a dress rehearsal for Schelling. “That interview [and the subsequent Form 151] is processed with my resume. The director then makes the decision to recommend me for OSI -- or not.”
In the meantime, Schelling returned to Charleston Southern in the fall of 2009 for his final semester. On the first Tuesday of November, Schelling faced a full schedule that included classes, internship and a late-afternoon ROTC detachment meeting.
“By the time I got to ROTC I was mentally and physically drained,” Schelling said. “When I was looking at this (the photo) I thought I was being ‘called out’ in front of the entire detachment for not filling out paperwork.”
Moments before the photo was taken, CSU ROTC Lieutenant Colonel Mark Trudeau called Schelling to the front of entire class. “As I walked up I was looking at the table and that piece of paper was in the blue folder,” remembers Schelling, pointing to the document he is holding in the photo. “Lieutenant Colonel Trudeau told me to look at the material and review the results very carefully. I stood at attention, looked down and picked up the folder. I was scared.”
Schelling’s eyes darted from a graph, then to his name highlighted in pink. “Then, out of my peripheral vision I saw a photo was taken,” said Schelling. “Then I looked at the title and it said OSI Selection Board.”
Schelling had been “sitting on pins and needles,” waiting for a reply from the Air Force OSI selection board for a month.
Now, in front of a classroom of two dozen cadets, detachment leaders and media, Schelling learned he had been selected for the AFROTC Office of Special Investigations program. He was the only nominee in the state of South Carolina and one of 19 applicants in the country to receive the honor.
“I had tears in my eyes,” said Schelling. “Everything that I’d been doing -- classes, internship at the DJJ (Department of Juvenile Justice), working part time at the Charleston airport, ROTC -- when I saw ‘OSI Selection Board,’ that burden was taken off my shoulders.”
Cadet Schelling was cool on the outside and a bubbling volcano, ready to explode, on the inside. He returned to his seat in Room 215 of the Derry Patterson Wingo nursing building, and squirmed for four hours.
“I was tired, then I was scared, then I took a 180-degree turn and full of joy,” said Schelling. The CSU cadet pulled out his mobile phone to text his family. “Sure enough when good news comes my way, none of my text messages went out. I kept getting a message – ‘no access to net.’ That’s great. I’m here for four more hours, and I can’t tell anyone.”
When Schelling did reach his mother by phone, she immediately noticed the excitement in his voice.
“When are you coming home? I’ve got something I want to share with you,” he asked.
“You got it, didn’t you?” his mother replied.
“When I told her yes, she screamed and almost burst my eardrum,” he said later.

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