Ops Air Force gives cadets look at life after classroom Published June 15, 2007 By Tyler Hemstreet 62nd Airlift Wing Public Affairs MCCHORD AIR FORCE BASE, Wash. -- McChord Airmen are getting a opportunity to show Air Force Academy cadets first-hand what life is like outside the classroom. Twenty-nine cadets from the Air Force Academy are staying here for three weeks as part of the Operation Air Force program. The program gives the cadets the opportunity to get a wide breadth of experience in several areas so they have a good background when it comes to choosing their career path in the Air Force, said base program director Maj. Graham Hicks, 62nd Airlift Wing. The cadets got a rousing introduction to the program right off the bat as a McChord aircrew picked up the group from the academy in Colorado Springs, Colo., and flew them back here. But the aircrew took a bit of a detour on the way home to show the cadets just what the C-17 Globemaster III can do. The crew flew some low-level maneuvers that made quite an impression on some of the cadets. "I wasn't aware of how agile the C-17 is," said Cadet Alex Rizkowsky. "The maneuvers were really impressive. It was a great introduction." After arriving here and getting settled in their rooms, the cadets were paired with various enlisted Airmen and senior noncommissioned officers from several different units. The chance to see how things operate in several different squadrons is something cadets don't get to experience inside the classroom, said Cadet Taylor Timberlake. "It's great to get exposed to some of the areas like services and public affairs because it helps you get a good idea of what everyone does to help the mission," he said. "It gives you a good view of the whole picture." "You get a good appreciation of all the work the different squadrons put into the mission," Cadet Rizkowsky said. The cadets also got the chance to talk to some senior officers and share thoughts on what qualities go into making a good leader, Cadet Rizkowsky said. The Operation Air Force experience not only enhances the cadets' current curriculum, but also gives them a glimpse of their future. "At times [at the academy] you can get overwhelmed by all the academics, so this experience provides a good chance to see what you're working toward," Cadet Rizkowsky said. It also gives tangible examples of what jobs in their chosen career field will look like once they graduate, Cadet Timberlake said. The opportunity to host the cadets is something leadership takes very seriously, Major Hicks said. "We've had a lot of good mentors for the program," he said. "All of them have really stepped up and have been great role models for the cadets. I'm thankful we've had so many Airmen volunteer." The cadets finish up the program and return to the academy June 22.