Cadet Lindsey Starr sits in the pilot seat of a TH-1H helicopter during Pathways to Blue on Keesler Air Force Base. (USAF Photo/Andre' Askew)
Cadets in Troy University’s U.S. Air Force ROTC Detachment 017 are already prepared to “Aim High” as the motto suggests, but an event at Keesler Air Force Base in Mississippi helped some of those cadets better aim themselves to become future Air Force leaders.
TROY cadets joined some 280 ROTC cadets from 15 different colleges and universities April 6-7 at the Second Air Force’s fourth annual “Pathways to Blue” initiative.
“If I were to ask you to buy a new car, what would you want to do,” said U.S. Air Force Maj. Gen. Timothy Leahy, 2nd Air Force commander. “You would want to go to different dealerships, look at the cars and ask questions about them. This is similar to ROTC cadets coming to Pathways to Blue. We give them the time to talk to someone who does a job that they are interested in. This helps them pick the job they are best suited for and gives the Air Force the best quality future officer.”
Capt. Antionne L. Morris, operations flight commander and assistant professor of aerospace studies at TROY, said the opportunity for the cadets to learn what is availability them through the Air Force is invaluable.
“The cadets are given the opportunity to interact with officers from a wide variety of career fields. Throughout the semester we invite guests to speak on topics such as leadership and their careers, but with an event like Pathways to Blue, they receive a dedicated two full days to learning about what’s available to them in the Air Force,” Capt. Morris said. “Cadets that attend this event leave with a much greater knowledge of what they want to do in the Air Force when they commission and in some situations, they learn what they don’t want to do as well. With this knowledge, the cadets can research more about those jobs as they continue to work towards becoming a second lieutenant.”
The event started with opening remarks and a flight briefing by members of the 403rd Wing then moved to hands-on demonstrations of various career fields such as battlefield airmen, cyber operations, weather, remotely piloted aircraft operator, civil engineering, aerospace medicine and a mixture of other commissioning options.
“I got to meet with people in my career field and ask them questions to prepare myself for going down there,” said Lindsey Starr, a TROY Air Force ROTC cadet. “Keesler will be my first base so it was important to me to go and get contact information so I can have connections later on. It was a really good learning experience because this is where I’m going to be and these are my people. It was just a really cool experience.”
For Cadet Alex Dettmar of Wetumpka, the trip marked his third time participating in the event.
“My sole reason for going the first year was to find out what job I wanted to pursue in the Air Force,” Dettmar said. “Getting to see, first hand, and talk to so many people, I actually came away with job options that were of interest to me. For those who go for the first time, I think it is an awesome experience and a great way to see what Air Force life is really like.”
Along with Starr and Dettmar, other cadets participating in the event were: Madeline Kirkpatrick, Rashawn Flowers, Zachariah Sullivan, Benjamin Ponder, Brittany Gordan, Ethan Hart, Suzanne Mayberry, Moira Pokemire, Robert Fowler, Arik Godwin, Demario Harris and Jalyn Hamilton.
In addition to learning about the various career fields, cadets also stayed in base lodging, received incentive flights and participated in a speed mentoring session.
Leahy has expressed excitement with regard to seeing who will step up and become a leader in the United States Air Force.
“We are bringing together people who are excited about what they do and watching them talk to the next generation about how great a life it is to serve our nation in the USAF,” said Leahy. “It is something that you cannot help but feel excitement for. I feel that in the past two days, we have found some of those leaders. We have found some that are going to put on the blue and that are going to follow that path and be the shield and sword of our nation. I am excited for their career and I’m excited to have them here.”