U.S. Air Force Academy cadets gain operational experience at Offutt

  • Published
  • By L. Cunningham
  • 55th Wing Public Affairs

Fifteen cadets from the U.S. Air Force Academy’s Cadet Squadron 11 visited the 55th Wing at Offutt Air Force Base, Nebraska, April 14-17, 2022. 

“The [U.S. Air Force] Academy is very near and dear to my heart and I was thrilled to host these leaders of tomorrow,” said Col. Kristen Thompson, 55th Wing commander and USAFA graduate. “Our focus was on providing a tailored and worthwhile engagement, building our relationship with CS-11 while simultaneously emphasizing the relationships we leverage daily to accomplish the mission.” 

The 55th Wing received support from wing and mission partners across Team Offutt in facilitating six Air Force specialty code immersions, each tailored to the cadets’ preferences. 

 “We don’t know very much about how the ‘big Air Force’ actually functions and how to actually work as leaders,” said Cadet 3rd Class Isabella Wax. “I’m hoping to get more functional experience and learn more about the enlisted side of things, as well as seeing Air Force specialty codes in action.” 

Experiences included trips to the RC-135 simulator, contracting sites and the Logistics Readiness Squadron flight, legal training, intelligence immersions, and a tour of U.S. Strategic Command spaces. Cadets had the opportunity to work with individuals in their preferred career fields, learning about the qualifications required and what sort of projects or assignments they can expect from each specialty. All cadets also trained with Security Forces personnel, familiarizing themselves with the tools and training required to ensure base and aircraft defense.

“This is a great opportunity for all of us to learn and see what the actual Air Force is like,” said Cadet 1st Class Zackary Bowden. “This gives us an idea and helps us see it in action.” 

The cadets also had numerous opportunities to network, ask questions, and be mentored by senior leaders around the wing. 

“Mission success takes teamwork, and we really highlighted that the talents these cadets will bring to active duty are part of the bigger team and the bigger picture, augmented by their teammates from different backgrounds, specialties, and ranks,” said Maj. Jonathan Ruiz, 55th Wing deputy director of staff. “The ability to provide some insight into my experiences—successes and failures—to mentor cadets at my alma mater was truly special.”

With the groundwork laid for a continuing partnership, the cadets returned to USAFA with a greater understanding of the 55th Wing, its mission, its partners and their potential futures in the operational Air Force.