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Cadets visit Peterson, get a taste of the future

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. – Chief Master Sgt. Idalia Peele, 21st Space Wing command chief, chats with U.S. Air Force Academy cadets, who are entering their second-class year, as part of Operation Air Force. The program allows future leaders to spend time on active duty bases learning about mission capabilities and responsibilities in wings around the world. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Dennis Hoffman)

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. – Chief Master Sgt. Idalia Peele, 21st Space Wing command chief, chats with U.S. Air Force Academy cadets, who are entering their second-class year, as part of Operation Air Force. The program allows future leaders to spend time on active duty bases learning about mission capabilities and responsibilities in wings around the world. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Dennis Hoffman)

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- One Chinese proverb says, “If you would know the road ahead, ask someone who has traveled it.” That is the purpose of a program putting future Air Force leaders in front of Airmen fulfilling the mission every day.

A group of about 20 U.S. Air Force Academy cadets spent two weeks visiting various groups around Peterson Air Force Base, learning what day-to-day operations are like outside of the academic setting. The visit was part of Operation Air Force, a program for cadets during their second-class cadet summer.

OAF allows future leaders to spend time on active duty bases learning about mission capabilities and responsibilities in wings around the world. Cadets interact with members of operational units, experiencing firsthand the daily life of Airmen, noncommissioned officers and company grade officers.

Cadet 2nd Class Emily Shunk, from Bend, Oregon, said the program allows a different perspective of Air Force life outside of the school setting at the Academy.

“You actually get to see the operations side,” Shunk said. “Especially (concerning) the enlisted people who we will lead.”

“It’s a good experience because we see that side of things we don’t usually see,” said Cadet 2nd Class Jamiel Trimble, from Cincinnati, Ohio. “We get to see the people and talk to the people we will get to work with firsthand.”

Cadet 2nd Class Whitton Valentine, of Omaha, Nebraska, appreciates the opportunity to get out among the people who are fulfilling the Air Force mission.

“I think it’s a good learning experience,” he said. “Right now we are still two years away from doing the mission, so talking with people who are doing the job and making an impact in the Air Force is really good.”

The biggest benefit to his time at the 21st Space Wing is being around people face-to-face, Trimble said.

“I am a people person, so interacting with people face-to-face is good,” he said. “Seeing how the chemistry and cohesiveness (among Airmen) makes everything easier and go more smoothly, and gaining from the experiences other people had is what I took away from it.”

Shunk said the visit presents the Air Force experience in a different light and gets the focus on something other than herself.

“Being around people you will lead one day takes your eyes off of yourself,” she said. “In school you focus on yourself, but this makes you think about the people you will lead and to value jobs you didn’t even know (existed).”

Shunk and Valentine desire to be pilots, so getting a chance to fly in a C-130 Hercules was a valuable experience for them. Trimble, who is still deciding what career field he will enter, found the visit to Cheyenne Mountain Air Force Station a unique experience.

A visit to the Vossler Noncommissioned Officer Academy, where the cadets met a panel of NCOs, was also an experience the group found beneficial.

“The best part of it was the advice,” Shunk said.

Trimble summed the experience up, saying the chance to get off the USAFA campus and out into the working Air Force world will help as the cadets move on in their careers.

“The whole experience of how things operate and run is a cool experience,” he said.

Peterson SFB Schriever SFBCheyenne Mountain SFSThule AB New Boston SFS Kaena Point SFS Maui