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CGOs help cadets understand active duty through “Ops Air Force”

  • Published
  • By 2nd Lt. Megan Grooms
  • 43rd Force Support Squadron
Cadets from the U.S. Air Force Academy and Reserve Officer Training Corps from various detachments are visiting Pope to gain an appreciation of how operations and support functions integrate and contribute to successful accomplishment of a wing's mission.

Operation Air Force is a three-week summer program designed to expose cadets to a real-world Air Force base environment. One of the course's objectives is to help the cadets make future Air Force Specialty Codes decisions through familiarization of their AFSCs of interest.

Capt. Thea Alli, 43rd Force Support Squadron and USAFA graduate, said the experience is the first time cadets are able to see first-hand, life as an active-duty officer.
"At the Academy, cadets learn a lot about leadership, but it's all theoretical," Captain Alli said. "'Ops Air Force' is the first time we were exposed to the daily routine as an officer and a leader."

Throughout the summer, three groups of USAFA cadets are scheduled to shadow Pope's company grade officers from different AFSCs. Upon arrival, the cadets are welcomed by senior leadership, participate in a meet and greet, and are assigned to their respective CGO facilitator.

'Ops Air Force' cadets experience snapshots of what day-to-day officer life is like in a judge advocate position, civil engineer squadron, contracting squadron, force support squadron, airlift squadron, aircraft maintenance squadron, comptroller squadron and executive officer positions. They are treated as second lieutenants coming into the Air Force. As well as shadowing CGOs, cadets participate in Pope's various activities.

One cadet is using his experience to prepare him for his first day as an officer.

"I'd like to hit the ground running when I get to my first base," said Cadet Ben Barringer. "This is a good opportunity to learn and ask questions."

The cadets participate in physical training sessions, Wing runs, hail and farewell ceremonies, mentoring sessions with senior noncommissioned officers, tours through 18th Air Support Operations Group, 18th Weather Squadron and Airborne Special Operations Museum in Fayetteville, as well as other events in the Pope/Fort Bragg community. The first group of cadets challenged a group of Airmen Leadership School students in a volleyball tournament at Pope's Fitness Center June 11. One group of incoming cadets is scheduled for an incentive flight with the 95th Airlift Squadron.

While approximately 50 percent of USAFA graduates become rated officers, many have never seen an active duty flying unit and do not have an understanding of what it takes to achieve and wear wings. To give them insight, the Air Force Reserve Command has granted permissions for cadets who have Aeronautical Orders and Altitude Chamber Cards to participate in cadet familiarization flights on Pope. This exposure to flying operations and interaction with aircrew members is a valuable experience they will use in making future AFSC choices.

At the end of the program, the cadets walk away with a better understanding of how operations and support functions support a wing's mission, how a base operates, how life is as a CGO, and aid in choosing an AFSC for their future Air Force careers.