News: Cadets experience deployed life at The Rock
Story by 1st Lt. Holli Nelson
UNDISCLOSED LOCATION - With a little more than two years under their belts at the United States Air Force Academy, 16 cadets now find themselves in a different setting than the mountains of Colorado – the desert of Southwest Asia.
These future officers are embarking on an opportunity of a lifetime by participating in the deployed operations program offered by USAFA. This program allows cadets to visit a secure deployed location such as the 386th Air Expeditionary Wing, to gain insight on the Air Force way of life.
The cadets, who come from a wide range of diverse backgrounds and who are looking into multiple career options in the future, have an opportunity to shadow multiple organizations on the base to see how they operate on a daily basis. Job shadowing exposes them to many of the careers they could be tasked with in their future. It also allows them to see where Airmen under their purview will be working so they have a better understanding of each career field.
“I hope to gain an actual idea of what it is like to work in the operational Air Force as a member of a team,” said Cadet 2nd Class Jacob Pond. “I hope to appreciate more the role of the enlisted core and the right kind of leadership to be effective in the future.”
These future leaders spend roughly four weeks in the deployed environment integrating daily with different units across The Rock. Each office takes six to eight cadets for a few days and shows them the best aspects of their career fields. They have experienced a wide variety of opportunities to induce combatives class with Check Six, integrating with security forces, building tents with civil engineers, and even shooting photos with public affairs.
“This experience has been very eye opening. I’m learning so much more than I ever expected to,” said Pond, a Lyons, Nebraska native. “The people here have been so supportive and helpful and I am really enjoying my time here.”
For the Marauders of The Rock, having the cadets visit is an opportunity to shape the future of the Air Force and offer advice as a mentors to these future leaders.
Command Chief Master Sgt. Jose Barraza took the chance to sit down personally with four of the cadets to offer his thoughts on leadership, the enlisted force, and how to make an impact as a leader.
“During mentorship, we often talk about character, compliance, and compassion, but how we lead others inspires the kind of belief needed to change lives,” said Barraza. “For me, it's really about creating a ripple effect, because while I may motivate these young cadets now, I am passionate about finding ways for them to stay motivated in the future, when tough situations are present and decisions must be made.”
As these cadets prepare to leave the desert and head back to the Academy where they will soon embark on their commitment decision, they look forward to what the Air Force has to offer.
“I look forward to the people I will get to work with and the opportunity to lead,” said Forrest Schaffer, a cadet with hopes of one day becoming a fighter pilot or air liaison officer. “I also look forward to having the opportunity to do cool things associated with any job I’m given.”
This small group will get to share the details of their journey with their classmates and new cadets once they return to Colorado.
“I want to share with the other cadets what I’ve learned here,” said Pond who hopes to become a civil engineer upon graduation. “Also, I want to set realistic expectations for the incoming freshmen that we will have to train so they understand what the operational Air Force is all about.”