Tuesday, July 07, 2015

Ops AF brings Academy, ROTC cadets to Malmstrom

by John Turner
341st Missile Wing Public Affairs

7/2/2015 - MALMSTROM AIR FORCE BASE, Mont. -- Cecily Agu is looking forward to receiving her commission as a second lieutenant when she graduates from the United States Air Force Academy in two years. She wants to go into space operations but she can also foresee herself becoming a missile officer.

Brandon Williams dreams of becoming an Air Force pilot. As he prepares to enter his sophomore year at a university in California, he hopes the Reserve Officers Training Corps will help him achieve that goal.

While each is on a different path toward becoming an Air Force officer, both are receiving similar valuable experiences this week as they visit work centers at Malmstrom Air Force Base and talk to commissioned and enlisted Airmen.

Agu and Williams are among 20 cadets visiting the base June 23 to July 9.  This is the second of three sessions here supporting Operation Air Force (Ops AF), an Air Force-wide summer program that sends USAFA and ROTC cadets to host bases to see the operational Air Force first-hand.

The visits serve two purposes, said 1st Lt. Deanna Kerkhoff, 341st Mission Support Group executive officer and point of contact for the current session.

The cadets receive professional development advice from base leadership and hear what is expected of young officers. They also get a feel for what different career fields in the Air Force do.

The cadets' daily schedules are packed with tours of base organizations including the 341st Missile Wing's operations, maintenance, security forces, support and medical groups, and the 819th RED HORSE squadron. A visit to a missile alert facility, helicopter flights and tours of procedures and maintenance trainers help the cadets understand the Minuteman intercontinental ballistic missile mission here.

"These cadets haven't chosen their jobs yet," Kerkhoff said. "They haven't put in their dream sheets for what they'll want to do in the Air Force, so this gives them more background information."

Williams still sees flying transports as his future, specifically the C-17 Globemaster, but spending time at a missile base has broadened his perspective. Before Ops AF, Williams didn't have much experience with the Air Force. Now if he has to choose a non-rated career, perhaps it will be security forces or civil engineering.

"It's a lot different than what I thought it would be," Williams said. "Everything looks kind of cool."

In addition to talking to Airmen on the job and learning what they do, the cadets will hear important career advice from commanders and senior noncommissioned officers.
Agu believes that interacting with a broad spectrum of ranks and job specialties has been the best part of the visit.

"At the Academy, we interact a lot with officers--our instructors are officers, and in the squadron we interact with officers--but here we also get to interact with enlisted personnel," Agu said. "I think that's very important for our officer development."

While here, she has received mentorship that will help her when she begins her career in the operational Air Force.

"One thing that has really stuck with me is that as a new lieutenant, you're not going to know everything the first day," Agu said. "Learn from people around you, especially senior NCOs, as it really helps develop you as an officer and better integrates you into the squadron."

Agu believes that Ops AF is one of the best programs the Academy has to offer, especially as she prepares to go into her junior year and commit to the Air Force.

"It's good to see what life after the Academy entails," she said. "I like it."

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