By Ray Bowden, U.S. Air Force Academy Public Affairs
/ Published June 21, 2019
A U.S. Air Force Academy cadet and an Air Force pilot prep a T-6A Texan II aircraft for flight at Columbus Air Force Base, Mississippi in 2018 during the Operations Air Force program. This year, cadets will visit more than 40 Air Force installations to experience daily life and operations as an officer. (U.S. Air Force photo by Mary Crump)
U.S. AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo. -- A program to acquaint scores of Air Force Academy cadets with the operational Air Force is in full swing today.
The first round of cadets left Colorado Springs earlier this month for 26 Air Force bases including Edwards and Vandenberg Air Force bases in California, Joint Base-San Antonio, Texas, and Yokota Air Base, Japan.
“Operations Air Force is a two-and-half week summer training program for Academy cadets and Air Force Reserve Officer Training Corps cadets,” said Lt. Col. Anthony Salvatore, the cadet wing’s group-one commander.
More than 900 upcoming “2-degree cadets,” equivalent to juniors at a civilian university, and 1,200 soon-to-be sophomore ROTC cadets are scheduled to visit more than 40 bases to check out career specialties for officers and spend time with Airmen.
‘“Ops Air Force’ is a tremendous opportunity for cadets to experience active duty Air Force operations before receiving their commissions as second lieutenants,” Salvatore said. “Our cadets say the program influences their career choices, helps them better understand their career options and education, and teaches them how to plan for their eventual duties as company grade officers.”
Cadets 1st Class David Mazza and Lucas Weyand helped organize this year’s Operations Air Force schedule.
Weyand, a geospatial science major from Pittsburg, Pennsylvania, visited Mildenhall Air Base, UK last year. He said the program is valuable is because it helps cadets choose specialties that “suit them and makes them excited to come to work each day.”
He also appreciated his time with noncommissioned officers.
“Their knowledge of the dynamics between all ranks in the Air Force were the most grounded in experience,” he said.
Mazza, a behavioral science major from Ann Arbor, Michigan, traveled to Vandenberg last year.
“I learned several important lessons,” he said. “Young officers need to lean on NCOs when they arrive at their duty station to learn the mission. Even as officers become more experienced, they still rely heavily on NCOs for advice. It’s essential to develop good relationships with the enlisted corps to effectively lead them.”
All Academy cadets participate in Operations Air Force, a requirement to graduate.
“It’s a great program,” Salvatore said. “It allows cadets to get a sight picture outside of the Academy and a chance to focus on the operational Air Force world. Many cadets are afforded opportunities while on ‘Ops Air Force’ they might not otherwise be able to obtain.”