News: Cadets deploy as part of Operation Air Force
Story by Capt. Angelic Dolan
Twenty U.S. Air Force Academy cadets deployed to the 386th Air Expeditionary Wing in Southwest Asia for a month as part of Operation Air Force.
Operation Air Force is an annual program that places Air Force Academy cadets at operational Air Force bases throughout the world for career shadowing, mentoring and familiarization.
Capt. Sean Lovell, 386th Air Expeditionary Wing Antiterrorism Officer, deployed from Patrick Air Force Base, Fla., said the program, Operation Air Force Deployed, provides the cadets a unique opportunity to learn about the active duty Air Force from a deployed environment. Operation Air Force exposes cadets to career-field specific experiences in area of interest or forecasted Air Force Specialty Code through internship and mentorship.
"The program brought the cadets to the Persian Gulf region to broaden their knowledge of the Air Force and make them more well-rounded officers," said Capt Lovell. "It also gives them perspective on other career fields."
Cadets will shadow Airmen in different career fields and interact with officers and the enlisted corps in mentoring sessions, he added.
"This is an opportunity for us to develop and mentor these soon-to-be officers," he said. "Not every cadet gets the opportunity to deploy. Cadets in their senior year were handpicked after several records reviews and interviews. These cadets are in the top percent of their class."
There are requirements just like any Airmen that deploys here, Capt. Lovell said. Cadets had to go through the same training and process as any other active duty member coming to this region.
"We are an expeditionary force, and it is important for the cadets to understand that concept instead of graduation and heading to their assignment then deploying," said Capt. Lovell. "This gives the cadets the opportunity to understand what we do in the area of responsibility and what our mission is here as an expeditionary force. They will get the first-hand knowledge and experience in the area of responsibility."
Cadet 1st Class Selena Rodts, United States Air Force Academy cadet, said by participating in this program she gets more of an insight on how the Air Force operates in a deployed environment, giving her a more hands-on experience.
"We have teachers who deploy and come back and tell us their experience and what to expect, but you never really know until you experience it for yourself, she added. That is why we are here. I look forward to what we will be learning in the next couple of weeks."