WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE — Cadets from the Air Force Academy recently spent two weeks learning what life in the operational Air Force is really like.
While visiting Wright-Patterson Air Force Base from June 6 – 21 as part of the Ops AF Program, their schedule included tours of the Air Force Research Laboratory, the 711th Human Performance Wing, the National Air and Space Intelligence Center and other operational units across the installation. They also received a flight on a C-17 and a guided tour of the National Museum of the United States Air Force. The 12 visiting cadets also worked with organizations to get a feel for what different jobs actually entail.
Col. Bradley McDonald, 88th Air Base Wing commander, and CMSgt Katie Racine, 88th Air Base Wing command chief, had several opportunities to interact with the visiting cadets.
“I cannot think of a better base than Wright-Patterson for your Ops AF experience,” Racine said during the opening session. “Use your time here to understand the variety of Air Force specialties and mission sets housed on this installation. Talk to our Airmen and ask questions about the jobs you are interested in pursuing.”
“Ops AF is a fantastic program that we’re proud to support and it’s been our privilege to host each of you,” McDonald said during the closing luncheon. “As future Air Force leaders, we trust you’ve learned more about our Air Force and the amazing professional civilian, officer, and enlisted Airmen you’ll soon have the opportunity to lead. We’re also glad to hear the experience has solidified career field choices for some of you, and for others you’re now thinking about a different path of service within our Air Force. That is valuable for you and our Air Force.”
Senior Master Sgt. Michael Mohay, 88th Diagnostics and Therapy Squadron Laboratory Flight Superintendent and Project Officer for Ops AF at Wright Patterson Air Force Base, said the cadets gained vital experience from this visit that will help them develop a successful career path.
“At a wing of this size, they have the opportunity to really see a lot of different things,” said Mohay. “They’re very eager, a very enthusiastic group that really want to learn a lot. They’re gaining that real-world perspective, and not going into the Air Force blindsided so they can prepare themselves while still at the Academy.”
Cadet-in-Charge Will Cooper, entering his third year at the Academy as an applied math major, said this trip showed him career opportunities he hadn’t seriously considered.
“The main benefit is for people to be opened to careers they’re not usually exposed to. At the Academy, we have blinders up and it’s all studying and focusing on school. People aren’t thinking ‘What am I going to do after I graduate.’ Ops AF gives the cadets a view of careers available to them.”
His time with the Wright-Patterson Medical Center personnel encouraged Cooper to consider medical school.
Ops AF also offered mentoring sessions to help cadets appreciate the roles company grade officers play in the unit and what expectations squadron leadership has for CGOs, especially lieutenants, on a daily basis.
Cadet Paul Lee, behavioral science major, is interested in careers ranging from contracting to OSI and learned that no matter where he works he will interact with Airmen from many career fields.
“I learned a lot about how the different jobs integrate,” Lee said. “I thought in the Air Force, each job did their own things, but I saw how they all work towards the same goal.”
A key lesson of Ops AF is that, as future leaders of the Air Force, these cadets will one day foster that integration, bringing operations and support functions together to accomplish a wing’s mission.
A second group of cadets will visit WPAFB from Tuesday, July 18 through Wednesday, Aug. 2.
Story courtesy of Wright-Patterson Air Force Base.