Operation Air Force: Cadets take trial runs at Aviano AB

AVIANO AIR BASE, Italy -- Eight cadets recently visited Aviano Air Base, Italy, recently as part of Operation Air Force, a program designed to give cadets operational Air Force experience.

In Operation Air Force, rising juniors and seniors spend nearly three weeks at an Air Force base to shadow active-duty personnel in different career fields to learn about the operational Air Force.

"It's a chance to get out of our bubble at the Academy and experience the real Air Force," said Cadet 1st Class Sarah Dugan of Cadet Squadron 23, whose favorite part of Ops Air Force was meeting enlisted Airmen and seeing them perform their jobs, something cadets do not often experience at the Academy.

The most recent group to visit Aviano Air Base spent time with Airmen from the medical, finance, security, pilot, public affairs, contracting, intelligence and maintenance career fields. Cadets observed surgeries, organized events, accompanied security patrols and watched munitions loading procedures, among other career field-specific tasks.

This program also provides cadets an opportunity to decide what job they want after graduation.

"Watching the nurses and (medical technicians) interact with their patients and seeing their passion for their job made me want to pursue a job in that field," said Cadet 2nd Class Chloe Lyon of CS 04, whose first work assignment was with the 31st Medical Group.

During the immersion, cadets already set on their career choice gained further insight into how the operational Air Force works. Cadet 3rd Class James Neat from CS 39 said he hopes to become a pilot but still appreciated the experience.

"I don't know if it will influence my job choice, but it definitely gave me a deeper respect for other (Air Force specialties)," Neat said. "It was a good chance to see how different aspects of the Air Force come together to accomplish a mission and how those divisions have mutual respect."

Many cadets will also receive incentive flights in the F-16 Fighting Falcons assigned to Aviano.

"Our facilitators are working hard to get all of us incentive flights, which we know is a valuable experience," Neat said. "I appreciated the opportunity to see firsthand from the cockpit what the Air Force can do when all of the career fields work together."

While at their base, the cadets are also required to attend three mentoring sessions with operations and support officers and a senior NCO.

"Mentoring sessions have been helpful because each officer has a different perspective," said Cadet Rachel Allison, who is assigned to CS 10.