JROTC cadets become Flying Yankees for day

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Tamara Dabney
  • 103rd Airlift Wing

Christine Libbey had seen C-130H Hercules aircraft flying over Connecticut and was familiar with “the sound of freedom” -  the thunderous roar of the plane’s Rolls Royce T-56 engines. She had even been on a military base tour, where she saw the inside of a C-130. However, she had never flown on a C-130 and wondered what the flight would be like. Her curiosity was finally satisfied when she became a Flying Yankee for a day during a tour of Bradley Air National Guard Base hosted by the Connecticut Air National Guard Recruiting Team.

Libbey, a Cadet Colonel in Torrington High School Junior ROTC, and her fellow cadets toured Bradley and flew on a C-130 during a refueling mission with the 103rd Operations Group.

“It was really amazing to see,” said Libbey. “We’ve come here many times, but we’ve never been able to go on a flight. It was beautiful to be able to see the views and experience flying in a C-130.”

The tour included an interactive walk-though of the 103rd Civil Engineer Squadron Fire Department, a Flight Simulator, which allowed the cadets to take the controls of a virtual C-130, a night-vision goggle demonstration and a briefing, which provided background on the Aircrew Flight Equipment career field. During the C-130 flight, the cadets watched the aircrew execute a cargo air drop and each cadet had the opportunity to enter the cockpit in-flight.

Members of the 103rd provided cadets with firsthand knowledge of what operations and maintenance specialists do on a daily basis in the Air National Guard. The experience also gave Libbey and other cadets insight into what the future may hold if they enlist in the Air National Guard after graduating high school.

“I think the Air National Guard is a good opportunity for some and is something that I am going to look into,” said Libbey.

A typical week in JROTC consists of lessons in leadership education, aerospace science and physical training. According to Torrington High School JROTC instructor Lt. Col. (Ret.) Charles Coulouras, the tour added a realistic perspective to the JROTC curriculum.

“They were on top of the clouds—literally, and it was great,” said Coulouras who served in the Active Duty Air Force for eight years and in the Massachusetts Air National Guard for 20 years before becoming a JROTC instructor. “I think the cadets really got a lot out of it. It really put into action everything that we’ve been talking about. They were able to see what the Air Force and the Air National Guard are all about.”

Enrollment in Air Force JROTC programs has grown by more than 50 percent in the last 40 years. Though there is no commitment to join the military after participating in JROTC, cadets are statistically more likely to join the military after graduating high school than students who are not enrolled in JROTC.

103rd Production Recruiter Todd Wilkinson said the goal of the tour was to inform cadets about opportunities offered through the Connecticut Air National Guard.  

“The impact we strive for is to educate potential applicants about just what we do and can do here at the 103rd, and the benefits you can get by joining the CT Air National Guard,” said Wilkinson. “I have enlisted people who have gotten their college degrees, received full-time employment here (at Bradley), been deployed, received commissions and are pursuing opportunities as pilots.”

High School representatives can contact Connecticut Air National Guard Recruiting by email at usaf.ct.103-aw.list.aw-recruiting-retention@mail.mil to schedule a base tour.