Junior ROTC Cadets Fly With 176th Wing
by U.S. Air National Guard David Bedard, 176th Wing
September 2, 2019
For almost 200 Junior ROTC cadets representing high schools
across Southcentral and Western Alaska, 176th Wing C-17 Globemaster
III and HC-130J Combat King II aircraft served as magic carpet rides
soaring over the Chugach Mountain Range during an orientation flight
out of Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson on May 28, 2019.
May 28, 2019 - Retired Army Maj. Daniel
Erskine, senior Army instructor with East High School Junior
ROTC, photographs cadets aboard a 144th Airlift Squadron
C-17 Globemaster III during an orientation
flight with the Alaska Air National Guard’s 176th Wing. The
mission of JROTC is to teach citizenship and leadership to
high school students. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by
144th Airlift Squadron aircrew switched white lights illuminating
the hold of the C-17 to tactical red lights, East High School Army
JROTC Cadet Seraiah Calogero quickly produced her smartphone and began
meticulously documenting the experience. A simple flick of a switch
proved to be a wonder to Calogero and dozens of her friends as they
strained to see a world bathed in monochromatic crimson light.
The experience was part of the weeklong JROTC Cadet Leadership
Challenge camp hosted by Anchorage School District and Bethel
Regional High School JROTC programs, which included tours of the
210th Rescue Squadron's HH-60G Pave Hawk combat search-and-rescue
helicopter and facilities of the 176th Maintenance Group.
attended JCLC at JBER in 1994 before anyone had any kind of inkling
of what a smartphone would look like or do. I was filled with wonder
as I met no-kidding Soldiers and Airmen and got up close and
personal with the incredible gear they used every day. I have to
admit, I have become jaded over the years, and an F-22 Raptor
thundering overhead has become as routine to me as a passing city
Fortunately, many of the veterans who teach JROTC
haven't lost that sense of wonder.
“It's exciting,” said
retired Army Maj. Daniel Erskine, East High School senior Army
instructor and JCLC commandant. “For an old Soldier, an old Airman,
Sailor or Marine, we do that stuff our whole career, and we get
desensitized to it.
“For the cadets, seeing the officers and
Airmen doing their jobs, smelling the jet fuel, hearing the
airplanes, it becomes very real,” the major concluded.
Perhaps the C-17's closest civilian counterpart is the 747 Jumbo Jet
cargo plane, except the 747 can't land on a short dirt airfield,
shoot missile-confusing flares, or swallow a 70-ton M-1A2 Abrams
tank whole. For their part, the cadets were thrilled to cycle into
the cockpit where they saw a panoramic view of Alaska's glory, far
more immersive than peering out of a jetliner's tiny window.
“It was a cool experience,” Calogero said. “I can say not too many
people get to do it.”
Her counterparts from other schools
boarded an HC-130J Combat King II operated by Alaska Air National
Guardsmen of 211th Rescue Squadron. Superficially similar to the
C-130 Hercules cargo variant, the HC-130 is specially configured for
search-and-rescue missions and is outfitted with wing-mounted pods,
which can refuel 210th RQS Pave Hawks in flight.
tour of the HH-60, cadets crawled into the cockpit – a little more
snug than the C-17 flight deck – and marveled at the rows of gauges
and foot pedals that control who knows what. They also got hands on
with the M134 minigun and M2 .50-caliber machine gun.
May 28, 2019 - Alaska Air
National Guard 2nd Lt. Erin Phillips, an HH-60G Pave Hawk
pilot with 210th Rescue Squadron, briefs the capabilities of
the Pave Hawk to East High School Junior ROTC cadets during
a cadet orientation. Phillips is an East High graduate.
(U.S. Air National Guard photo by David Bedard)
High School Cadet Emily Parks palmed the charging handle of the
window-mounted M2 and struggled to rack it back. Turns out it wasn't
as easy as she imagined, but she got the hang of it.
cadets also toured the 176th Maintenance Squadron Propulsion Flight,
where they began to blindly disassemble an HC-130 demo engine.
Later, they saw the 176th MXS machine shop where metal parts are
fabricated from billets, and composite parts can be 3D printed.
At the conclusion of the tour, after seeing the cadets' smiling
faces as they met with Airmen and got a taste of what it is aircrew
and maintenance professionals do every day, I couldn't help but
recapture a youthful appreciation for how amazing service members
are. The wonder is back.
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