MCCONNELL AIR FORCE BASE, Kan. -- Eleven United States Air Force Academy cadets participated in a three week tour of McConnell June 4 to 21, 2012, as part of the Operation Air Force program.
Every summer, cadets visit bases worldwide to learn about the various wing's overall mission. This opportunity to experience Air Force operations is available to cadets between their sophomore and junior year.
"The whole point of our visit is to experience all the jobs out there to see where you fit, and to experience all the departments to understand what goes on and how they contribute in their own unique way," said Cadet 2nd Class Erik Smith.
During their time at McConnell, the cadets visited the maintenance, mission support, medical and operations groups where they witnessed Airmen performing their jobs.
Along with visiting the specific groups, they attended a survival evasion resistance and escape briefing, watched a security forces working dogs demonstration, worked the gate, rode along with McConnell's military police, visited the law center, toured the tower, met with a retired brigadier general and attended a live-fire demonstration at a Kansas National Guard firing range.
To show how important air refueling is to the Air Force, the cadets also participated in five KC-135 Stratotanker flights.
"It was really cool to get to see all the different air frames being refueled," said Cadet 2nd Class Ford Carty. "You don't realize how big the scope of the Air Force is until you can see all the planes you can refuel with the KC-135."
The cadets spent time with McConnell's senior leaders for personal mentoring and discussions.
Meeting with the commanders provided exposure to each of the groups and respective missions. Mentoring sessions allowed cadets to ask questions about leadership and hear experiences from leadership that have led to their successes.
This glimpse of what cadets refer to as the "real" Air Force is meant to develop the future officers and help them determine which career fields to select on their preference sheets.
"I would hope that the cadets now have a clearer understanding of the responsibilities that each career path has," said Maj. Creg Johnson, 22 Air Refueling Wing combat plans chief and McConnell's Operation Air Force program coordinator.
A second group of cadets will visit June 26 through July 12.