EIELSON AIR FORCE BASE, Alaska –
Stepping down into the boom operator’s console, peering over the security forces’ weapons, and handling civil engineering equipment is a little of what the Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps students from throughout Interior Alaska took part in as they visited the 168th Wing.
The students could see firsthand the mission capabilities of the 168th Wing. Boom operators, pilots, maintenance technicians, security forces defenders, and civil engineer Airmen took part in sharing their careers and showcasing the mission for the students to better understand the Alaska Air National Guard mission.
“I thought it was cool how we got to see what people do here,” said Kobe Axtell of North Pole High School JROTC. “You can see the possibilities. I thought it was cool because half the stuff they showed me I did not know anything about. I learned a lot of new things today.”
The day started with a question-and-answer series from pilots, and then the students received close-up demonstrations of the Airmen’s skills. Questions and answers continued as each group took turns speaking with 168th Wing Airmen on board the KC-135, in the working shops, and during a bar-b-que lunch.
Lt. Cory Schaeffers of the 168th Operations Group was asked about his military experiences. He said, “I began my career as maintenance in the Marine Corps.” He shared his maintenance and pilot training experiences, survival training courses, and some of his career from the Marine Corps to the Alaska Air National Guard today as a KC-135 pilot.
Staff Sgt. Kyle Betts of the 168th Maintenance Group shared his experience with the Agile Combat Employment concept and how he expanded his mission set by having the opportunity to learn electrical on the aircraft. He also explained AMP licenses, FAA requirements, and crew chief to pilot experiences. Maintenance technicians explained the working parts of the aircraft and engines.
“I enjoyed hearing about the KC-135 aircraft engine and seeing one on display,” said Ezekiel “Barefoot” Barnes of Lathrop High School JROTC. “It is nice hearing about the unit.” Barefoot was Barnes’ nickname during the camp for his barefoot running during a competitive race. He plans to join the Army paratroopers and follow in his grandfather’s footsteps.
Staff Sgt. Tyler Winterton asked questions to the students, “How many know the wing provides air-to-air refueling, cargo and passenger transport, and medical evacuations?”
Winterton and Master Sgt. Jonathan Legan, 168th boom operators, provided an overview of the flying experiences of boom operators giving a little insight into a day in the life of aircrew.
Security Forces members displayed their weapons and discussed safety along with the mission to secure assets. The students were able to take part in screen time simulations and try their hand at stun gun training and the importance of deterring at the lowest level possible.
Casey Mcgoffin of the Eielson High School JROTC shared he liked seeing the weapons. “I liked seeing the weapons on display and learning about the mission of the security forces,” said Casey Mcgoffin.
The students visit the wing as a part of their summer camp experience. The JROTC summer camp consists of West Valley High School Marine Corps JROTC, Lathrop High School Army JROTC, Eielson Air Force Base High School Air Force JROTC, and North Pole High School Air Force JROTC.
“I never would have joined or stayed with it unless I did the summer camp,” said Cadet Luna Forlino of North Pole JROTC, who is in her senior year. “I was an incoming ninth-grader, and it was mentally and physically straining for me, and for the whole time, I was thinking I’m never going to do this again —then by the end, it made me realize I was stronger than I thought I could and with other people pushing me I could become better and now I love JROTC.”