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JROTC cadets soar with Altus refuelers

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Clinton Atkins
  • 97th Air Mobility Wing Public Affairs
Twenty-nine Air Force Junior ROTC cadets from Crooked Oaks High School in Oklahoma City experienced a day in the life of an aircrew member aboard a KC-135 Stratotanker at the 55th Air Refueling Squadron at Altus AFB March 5.

The students learned the daily operations of a KC-135 aircrew and witnessed firsthand how a boom operator refuels an aircraft. By offering the cadets a once-in-a-lifetime experience of participating in an aerial refueling mission, the 55th ARS aircrew and the high school's aerospace science instructor showed the students some things they wouldn't have been able to learn in a classroom, said retired Master Sgt. Wes Wheeland, Crooked Oaks High School aerospace science instructor.

"Since I have a background in flying, I wanted my cadets to experience what it was like on a mission," said Mr. Wheeland, who spent the majority of his Air Force career as a boom operator. "What we learned on this mission ties directly into our curriculum."

The Junior ROTC instructor said the cadets get to go on only one or two curriculum-in-action trips per year and not everyone gets to attend.

"Whenever we get to go on one of these trips we try to teach the students as much as possible and to get the most out of the experience," Mr. Wheeland said. "Also, going on field trips allows the students to connect what they have been learning in the classroom to how it is applied in the Air Force.

"Our goal is to broaden their world and open their minds to possibilities, but we are first and foremost for education," he said. "A couple of the students are actually interested in joining the military in the future."

A senior on the trip, Cadet Airman 1st Class Dustin Bailey, 19, said he hopes to enlist into the Air Force the summer after he graduates.

"I wanted to join the Air Force before I came here and this experience makes me want to join even more," he said.

Junior ROTC may be a stepping stone into the military, but it also prepares the students for life itself, Mr. Wheeland said.

"Even those who don't want to join the military benefit from Junior ROTC by learning to become model citizens because we teach them the three Core Values: integrity first, service before self and excellence in all you do," he said. "The discipline the students learn through Junior ROTC will allow them to excel in the work force. I can't think of anything else needed more in this world."