MACDILL AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. — Reserve Officers’ Training Corps and U.S. Air Force Academy cadets flew aboard a KC-135 Stratotanker aircraft during Operations Air Force, June 14, 2018 at MacDill Air Force Base, Florida.
For the first time during Operations AF, Team MacDill enabled cadets to experience a flying classroom to gain leadership lessons while over 35,000 feet above ground.
Operations AF is a development program hosted by more than 60 AF bases around the world and provides cadets from all over the nation an opportunity to shadow military members and receive mentorship. Three groups of cadets will experience Operations AF at MacDill over the summer.
“This is a great opportunity to give these cadets a firsthand experience of what it is like to be in the Air Force,” said Capt. Christopher Flaute, the MacDill Operations AF director assigned to the 50th Air Refueling Squadron. “It is also an innovative opportunity to cultivate an educational environment conducive to inspiring these future leaders while answering any questions they may have.”
At MacDill AFB, the cadets had the unique opportunity to not only see the mission in action, but receive leadership insight during a flying classroom on board a KC-135.
While witnessing aerial refueling firsthand, cadets gained senior enlisted leadership perspective from Chief Master Sgt. Michael Lemond, who has served for 27 years and is the 6th Mission Support Group superintendent.
“The reason why MacDill is innovative is because we are investing in experiential learning through incentive flights on an actual military aircraft, which has been unprecedented until recently,” said Lemond.
This opportunity was unique because, after all, how many people can say they’ve been in a classroom at altitudes in excess of 35,000 feet?
“One of the purposes of the flying classroom is to build enthusiasm and interest in [future leaders],” said Flaute.
In a collaborative effort to provide an all-inclusive experience, the cadets were able to interact with Airmen from various career fields during their two-week stay on base.
“This experience is priceless because it gives insight to careers, skillsets, and the day-to-day operations of Airmen on base in an environment not utilized until now,” said Lemond. “The professional development of future Airmen is extremely important to the Air Force because giving them this opportunity only reinforces their desire to be a part of our family.”
As a result of the four-hour in-air refueling incentive flight, MacDill displayed its unmatched aerial refueling as well as its dedication to developing the nation’s future leaders.
“It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience and I feel lucky enough to be one of few to be in the cockpit during the flight,” said Cadet 3rd Class Ethan Torres, a student of Detachment 035 at California State University, Fresno. “I’ve never done anything like this before, it is unforgettable and it makes me more invested in my coursework and in the Air Force as a whole after seeing how Airmen contribute to the mission.”