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Pathways to Blue shows ROTC cadets the way

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Travis Beihl
  • 81st Training Wing Public Affairs

More than 180 ROTC cadets from 22 different colleges and 31 active duty enlisted members attended the second annual “Pathways to Blue” initiative hosted by 2nd Air Force at Keesler Air Force Base, Miss. April 15-16.

During the two-day event, cadets and airmen learned about job opportunities, toured different aircraft and sat down with officers for one-on-one mentorship and different perspectives on commissioned life in the Air Force.

“Cadets can gain a lot from the perspective of mentors actually performing the mission,” said Maj. Gen. Mark Brown, 2nd AF commander. “What we hope to achieve is to explain what really happens when you choose a specialty and join the Air Force; to show what it’s really like to be a cyber operator or a remotely piloted aircraft pilot. The ‘art of the possible’ inside the Air Force is what we are talking about here.”

Pathways to Blue aims to help build future leaders in the Air Force, as well as highlight different routes to becoming an Air Force officer. The target audience is freshmen and sophomores along with enlisted members who may be undecided about various career fields once they get commissioned.

The event kicked off with an introduction to the mentors then quickly moved to hands-on demonstrations with various career fields ranging from aerospace medicine and cyber operations to battlefield airmen, space and missiles, aviation, medical, and a mixture of support fields.

By highlighting a ‘big picture’ view of the Air Force and its opportunities, Pathways to Blue gives cadets and enlisted members a chance to see where they fit into the service, like finding the right piece to put in a puzzle, added Capt. Elicia Brown, 2nd AF budget officer.

“This is my second Pathways to Blue and it’s been very engaging and hands on,” said Kayla Davis, Tuskegee University Air Force ROTC cadet. “I’ve wanted to be a nurse since I was little, because my mother was a nurse, and the mentors have helped me better understand the different paths I could take to become one in the Air Force.”

As an event designed to showcase the Air Force’s mission diversity and commissioning options, Pathways to Blue mentors also appreciated the event’s scope.

“To see something like this 20 years ago would have been mind-blowing,” said Maj. Sarah Abel, 81st Medical Operations Squadron clinical nurse specialist. “I’ve been in the Air Force for 16 years now and this would have been a game-changer for my college’s ROTC program.”

Maj. Gen. Brown also offered his personal take on opportunity in the armed forces for cadets attending Pathways to Blue.

“I can be what I want to be in the Air Force,” said Maj. Gen. Brown. “Regardless of my background, zip code, gender, race or economic standings, I can rise based on my capabilities in the Air Force. That is exactly what we want these cadets and all others to know!”