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    384th ARS continues Pilot for a Day, enriches young lives

    384th ARS continues Pilot for a Day, enriches young lives

    Photo By Staff Sgt. Jessica Lockoski | Senior Airman Kyle Engasser, 384th ARS boom operator, helps Esmeralda...... read more read more



    Story by Staff Sgt. Jessica Lockoski 

    22nd Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs

    WICHITA, Kan. - Flight suits come issued in many sizes: however, at McConnell, they can come in the size of extra-extra small – for the youngest and tiniest new, up-and-coming pilots.

    Eleven-year-old Esmeralda Quinonez-Jauregui, who has waged a war with Leukemia and is now in successful remission, became the latest aircrew member on base when she joined a 22nd Air Refueling Wing flying squadron’s “Pilot for a Day” program June 27.

    The 384th Air Refueling Squadron hosted Esmeralda, her mother, Leticia, and family members as part of an almost 20-year Air Force-wide program that allows medically-challenged youth a chance to visit bases and become a part of the Air Force family.

    “I hope this day will leave a positive, lasting memory for Esmeralda,” said Capt. Jonathan Yates, 384h ARS pilot. “It is important to me and the 384th ARS because it not only gives us the chance to share what we do in the Air Force with an ailing child, but as warfighters, gives us inspiration from someone who is bravely fighting a battle of her own.”

    Quarterly, between the wing’s four flying squadrons, they try to organize “Pilot for a Day” and have hosted more than a dozen youth’s visits over the years.

    “Each squadron takes pride in having a child be an honorary member and always has people to lend a hand, making sure the day goes smoothly and that the focus goes 100 percent to the child,” said Yates.

    Esmeralda’s welcome in the flying community started by receiving her own child-sized flight suit and squadron patches. She was selected to participate, like many children before her, through a partnership with local community hospitals.

    “We make this program available in order to provide hope and give children goals to stay strong and work towards,” said Yates.

    Esmeralda was diagnosed with Leukemia two and a half years ago and has been in remission for about one year, receiving treatment at Wesley Medical Center in Wichita, Kan., a four-hour drive from her Ulysses, Kan., home.

    “She is doing really good: she's so strong,” said Paula, her 18-year-old sister. “No child should ever have to go through what she went through but she's very strong and understanding.”

    Esmeralda was nothing but smiles through the whole process, she added.

    She continued to share her smiles with Team McConnell Airmen during several stops, trying the KC-135 Stratotanker simulator and Boom Operator Weapon System Trainer first.

    While her feet could hardly reach the cockpit floor, pilots aboard agreed she was ready for flight. But Esmeralda had an exception to the standard flight uniform regulations – her small, black flip flops hung from her feet below her flight suit.

    She refueled an E-3 Sentry, F-16 Fighting Falcon and a B-2 Spirit in the BOWST next.

    “She really had a lot of fun,” said Senior Airman Kyle Engasser, 384th ARS boom operator, who laid beside her in the sim. “At first she was so quiet, I think I could hear just the mic click, but when she got past the first receiver, she got more comfortable with it and was all smiles. It was pretty cool.”

    Esmeralda said she plays video games at home, but it was nothing compared to the simulators.

    During her day, she toured a KC-135 static display on the flight line and visited the base fire department and security forces squadron’s working dog section to learn about the equipment and jobs of the base’s emergency responders.

    “Our Airmen jump at the opportunity to share their career field, pride and expertise, especially when it has the ability to brighten someone's day the way we know it has for Esmeralda,” said Yates.

    Her favorite part of the day, she said, was watching the fierce bites of a dog rip into an aggressor during the K-9 demonstrations.

    The young pilot returned to the squadron and was met by dozens of applauding airmen who showed her moral support. She left McConnell with a newly earned set of pilot’s wings and a smile.



    Date Taken: 06.27.2013
    Date Posted: 06.27.2013 18:15
    Story ID: 109413
    Location: WICHITA, KS, US 
    Hometown: ULYSSES, KS, US

    Web Views: 62
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    384th ARS continues Pilot for a Day, enriches young lives