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Cadets visit MacDill, learn Air Force way of life

by Senior Airman Stephanie Witty
Thunderbolt staff writer

MacDill personnel served as mentors for cadets from the US Air Force Academy and Reserve Officer Training Corps who, through the Operation Air Force program, made a two-week visit here recently.

The program is designed to both motivate and educated cadets about the mission and daily life of Air Force airmen, non-commissioned officers and commissioned officers by sending the cadets to operational bases throughout the Air Force.

"Basically we try to give them a macro view of the Air Force and offer them a look at some career fields so they can make an informed decision when it comes time to choose their Air Force Specialty Codes," said Capt. Don Landgrebe, MacDill OAF base director.

The program takes place annually throughout the Air Force and this year MacDill welcomed a total of 29 cadets in three separate sessions.

During their stay at MacDill, cadets received guidance and demonstrations from the 6th Security Forces Squadron's Military Working Dog Section and Marine Patrol Unit, the Joint Communications Support Element, Office of Special Investigations, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, enlisted personnel from Network 56, and met with U.S. Central Command, U.S. Special Operations Command and 6th Air Mobility Wing leadership. Cadets also had the opportunity to experience MacDill's KC-135R flight simulator as well as take an incentive flight aboard a KC-135R.

The cadets "shadow" Air Force officers who teach them about the everyday tasks, activities and perceptions of Air Force officers and enlisted personnel, educating them on the processes of operational Air Force units.

"It is a nice orientation into the real Air Force giving a broad spectrum of Air Force enlisted and officers so they know what to expect when they graduate and earn their commission," said 1st Lt. Randy Sharpe, MacDill OAF base director. "We try to teach them lessons we have learned as second lieutenants."

The cadets enjoyed the experience and learned not only about themselves but also their future goals.

"It has been good seeing that there are lots of different options for officers in different career fields," said Academy Cadet 2nd Class Thad Ronnau. "It will help me fill out my dream sheet of what jobs I want upon graduation."

Through their experience, some cadets even made some unpredicted discoveries.

"There were surprising things about each career field, it was good to see different aspects of each not regularly publicized," said Cadet Ronnau. "I was also surprised by how much paperwork officers have to do in their jobs."

Chris Carr, Citadel Cadet 1st Class, said the experience helped him decide he does not want a desk job and will seek something "hands-on."

Due to the operational activities currently taking place in the Air Force and at MacDill, this year the OAF program included several unique experiences.

"There is a heavy tempo this year including Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom," said Lieutenant Sharpe. "Because of that, there was a more of an emphasis on the operations and CENTCOM."

Col. Tanker Snyder, 6th AMW commander, expressed the significance of the program and its objectives, during a luncheon with cadets.

"This is a really important program," he said. "As junior officers in the Air Force, you don't always get a chance to interact with the enlisted force and it is truly amazing to see your NCOs and airman make things happen."

He also bestowed some words of wisdom upon the future second lieutenants.

"The best thing to do is to find an NCO mentor because you are often younger and less experienced, and they are intrusting their care in your leadership," he said.




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