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Operation Air Force cadets arrive at Buckley

BUCKLEY AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- Twenty-six Reserve Officer Training Corps cadets from universities around the country arrived in Denver, Colo., June 11 to participate in Operation Air Force, an initiative driven by the Air Force to ensure future officers understand the enlisted corps.

The Operation Air Force program is designed to give U.S. States Air Force Academy and Air Force ROTC cadets exposure to active-duty life. The cadets at Buckley AFB the first three-week period are ROTC cadets. These cadets will be here until June 23 when the second group of cadets replaces them. Throughout the summer there will be two more periods where cadets, likely ROTC, will shadow their mentors, this begins June 24 and ends August 4.

“There are actually two aspects to the program here at Buckley – the Rising Sophomore Program and the Rising Senior Program,” said 2nd Lt. Amanda Hooper from the 2nd Space Warning Squadron. “Rising sophomores are here to gain experience with the enlisted culture. They are each paired with a noncommissioned officer or a senior NCO mentor, who has prepared a training plan similar to one he would use to train a new Airman in the shop.

“Rising seniors are paired with a company grade officer mentor,” she said. “These cadets are given the training and responsibilities that a new lieutenant would be expected to perform.”

“We are fortunate to show them what lays ahead,” said Lt. Col. Ivan Merritt, commander of ROTC Detatchment 17 at Troy University, Ala., and the escort officer for the cadets here. “This way we can use their gifts and talents to make a better Air Force later on down the road.

“This opportunity is second to none,” he added. “They learned the concepts, now they can touch it, feel it and see it. We are setting the stage so they can see what the Air Force has to offer them, and what they have to offer the Air Force.”

“It is a good program that is necessary for the cadets to have,” said Staff Sgt. Maria Smith, the cadets’ cadre who is the ROTC program noncommissioned officer in charge of personnel at Notre Dame University, Ind. “It gives them a glimpse of how the Air Force works.”