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Teen Aviation Camp
Paige Johnson, 16, from Stoneham, Colo. in the cockpit of a Cessna ready to fly around the Air Force Academy. Pilots from the Academy’s Aero Club took her and other teens for flights as part of the Air Force’s Teen Aviation Camp. (U.S. Air Force Photo/Leslie Finstein)
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Teens soar at 11th-annual aviation camp

Posted 6/13/2011   Updated 7/1/2011 Email story   Print story


by Leslie Finstein
U.S. Air Force Academy Public Affairs

6/13/2011 - U.S. AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo. -- Thirty-six teens from around the Air Force came to the Air Force Academy June 4-8 to take part in the 11th-annual Teen Aviation Camp.

All the 16- and 17-year old campers come from Air Force families and have parents who are active duty, retirees, reservists, or members of the Air National Guard. Teens and their families only have to pay for the cost of transportation to the Academy, the camp and its activities are free. The Air Force Services Agency sponsors and organizes the camp.

"I went to space camp a few years ago, but that is more geared towards NASA," said 16-year-old Paige Johnson of Stoneham, Colo. "Then I heard about this camp, and since I really want to fly planes, I knew this was the one for me."

Ms. Johnson's father is Col. Loren Johnson of the Air National Guard. He was a fighter pilot in the Air Force and even served as Thunderbird No. 8. She said she wants to follow in her dad's footsteps becoming a pilot or an aeronautical engineer.

Another camper, 16-year-old Jacob Swortzel said he is also inspired by his father: Lt. Col. Robert Swortzel, a reservist who trains pilots at Luke Air Force Base in Phoenix.

"I'm interested in aviation because my dad flies and I've seen what he's done in his career and I think it's great how he's served his country," Mr. Swortzel said.

Over the course of the camp, the teens were introduced to aviation and the Academy. They toured labs, met with cadets, professors, and admissions representatives, ate in Mitchell Hall, built gliders, and flew aboard T-41 Mescaleros.

Camp counselors, like Payal Mehta of Minot Air Force Base, N.D., kept things running smoothly all week at the camp. She, like the other counselors, works for Air Force Services.

"The impact is the best part of being involved in camps like this," Ms. Mehta said. "These kids are our future; I want to help lead and guide them and show them what's out there for them."

Con Fisher and Kimberly Gilman from the Air Force Services Agency headquarters in San Antonio organized this event.

This was Mr. Fisher's third year as the lead on this camp. He spent two years before that as a counselor.

"We are here to ensure everything runs smoothly," Mr. Fisher said of his role here.

They work with the Air Force Academy Services office to set up this camp throughout the year and when it comes time for the camp, Mr. Fisher and Ms. Gilman take over the operation on the ground.

"I like this camp," Mr. Fisher said. "It lets teens know what they need and what they should focus on if they want to get into the Academy and if they want to become pilots."

The camp wrapped up June 8 with glider flights, tours of the Academy, an evening sit down with Academy Admissions representatives, and a close-out party.

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