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Local brothers become ‘Pilots for a Day’

Caleb Pancake wears an aircrew headset while on a tour of a C-17 Globemaster III as part of the Pilot for a Day program March 16, 2012, at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Leah Young)

Caleb Pancake, from Centralia, Wash., wears an aircrew headset while on a tour of a C-17 Globemaster III as part of the "Pilot for a Day" program March 16, 2012, at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Leah Young)

Senior Airman Jordan Rayman, 4th Airlift Squadron loadmaster, teaches Jeremiah Pancake different functions of a C-17 Globemaster III and its equipment as part of the Pilot for a Day program March 16, 2012, at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Leah Young)

Senior Airman Jordan Rayman, 4th Airlift Squadron loadmaster, teaches Jeremiah Pancake different functions of a C-17 Globemaster III and its equipment as part of the "Pilot for a Day" program March 16, 2012, at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash. Pancake is from Centralia, Wash. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Leah Young)

Caleb and Jeremiah Pancake, along with family members, stand in front of a C-17 Globemaster III with members of the 4th Airlift Squadron as part of the Pilot for a Day program March 16, 2012, at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash. The guests had an opportunity to tour the JBLM fire station, experience an explosive ordnance disposal demonstration and get a personal tour of a C-17 Globemaster III.  (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Leah Young)

Caleb and Jeremiah Pancake, along with family members, stand in front of a C-17 Globemaster III with members of the 4th Airlift Squadron as part of the "Pilot for a Day" program March 16, 2012, at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash. The guests had an opportunity to tour the JBLM fire station, experience an explosive ordnance disposal demonstration and get a personal tour of a C-17 Globemaster III. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Leah Young)

Caleb Pancake sits in the cockpit of a C-17 Globemaster III as part of the Pilot for a Day program March 16, 2012, at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash. Pilot for a Day is an Air Force program that enables challenged youth a chance to visit a military installation, becoming part of the team in the process. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Leah Young)

Caleb Pancake, from Centralia, Wash., sits in the cockpit of a C-17 Globemaster III as part of the Pilot for a Day program March 16, 2012, at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash. Pilot for a Day is an Air Force program that enables challenged youth a chance to visit a military installation, becoming part of the team in the process. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Leah Young)

Caleb Pancake reads an aircrew checklist while on a tour of a C-17 Globemaster III as part of the Pilot for a Day program March 16, 2012, at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Leah Young)

Caleb Pancake reads an aircrew checklist while on a tour of a C-17 Globemaster III as part of the "Pilot for a Day" program March 16, 2012, at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash. Pancake is from Centralia, Wash. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Leah Young)

Senior Airman Jordan Rayman, 4th Airlift Squadron loadmaster, teaches Caleb Pancake different functions of a C-17 Globemaster III and its equipment as part of the Pilot for a Day program March 16, 2012, at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Leah Young)

Senior Airman Jordan Rayman, 4th Airlift Squadron loadmaster, teaches Caleb Pancake different functions of a C-17 Globemaster III and its equipment as part of the "Pilot for a Day" program March 16, 2012, at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash. Pancake is from Centralia, Wash. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Leah Young)

Jeremiah Pancake plays foosball at the 4th Airlift Squadron as part of the Pilot for a Day program March 16, 2012, at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Leah Young)

Jeremiah Pancake plays foosball at the 4th Airlift Squadron as part of the "Pilot for a Day" program March 16, 2012, at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash. Pancake is from Centralia, Wash.(U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Leah Young)

JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Wash. -- As they climbed aboard a C-17 Globemaster III for the first time, two local brothers could hardly hold back their excitement.

The brothers from Centralia, Wash., are battling cystic fibrosis and recently had an opportunity to step in the shoes of an Airman and become a part of Team McChord when they visited the installation as part of the Pilot for a Day program.

Jeremiah Pancake, 9-years-old, and his brother, 6-year-old Caleb, were hosted by the 62nd Airlift Wing's 4th Airlift Squadron. The purpose of the program is to devote an entire day for local children with serious or chronic conditions and give them a chance to experience the Air Force firsthand. Participants are usually selected through a partnership with a community hospital or foster program.

"We are privileged to host these children and we hope to create a day filled with fun and enjoyment," said Tech. Sgt. Mark Hafer, 4th AS loadmaster and Pilot for a Day coordinator, prior to the day's events.

During the visit, Jeremiah and Caleb, along with family members, were able to watch a military working dog demonstration by the 627th Security Forces Squadron, interact with the 627th Civil Engineer Squadron explosive ordnance disposal unit, visit the air traffic control tower, eat lunch with the 4th AS and get an up-close look at a C-17 Globemaster III.

"This was such an amazing opportunity for the boys," said Charity Pancake, mother of Jeremiah and Caleb. "They get more and more excited with each event. It feels good to be able to give them something a little extra."

Other highlights of the fun-filled day included "flying" in a C-17 aircraft simulator and being strapped on a virtual reality parachute simulator, where they practiced "parachuting" in different environments.

"They were definitely the most excited for the simulator," said Charity. "They keep calling it the best video game ever."

After the C-17 aircraft simulator, Jeremiah and Caleb accompanied their family and Pilot for a Day team members to dinner with new flight suits on their backs, squadron coins in their pockets and lasting smiles on their faces.

"I want to do this again tomorrow," said Caleb at the end of the day.

The original "Pilot for a Day" program began in December 1994, organized by Captain Rory "Ox" Blackburn at Randolph Air Force Base, Texas. The concept has since spread to several bases across the country, including the 62nd AW at JBLM.
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