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Fall traveling with Air Force JROTC

On the morning of Thursday, September 18th, forty-three Air Force JROTC cadets from the Piedmont and Porter Ridge High School Air Force Junior ROTC unit boarded an activity bus accompanied by instructors, Captain Werder and Chief Master Sergeant Holmes, and chaperones. The cadets were headed to the state capital, Raleigh.

The first stop for cadets was the state capitol building in the center of Raleigh. They were given a tour guide by a Civil War reenactor and got to see and touch many historic areas and articles. At different areas around the capitol building, cadets would give short informational speeches, (briefings were pre-trip homework) explaining different historical objects or people, like the Halifax Resolves, Virginia Dare, and the Edenton Tea Party. Next cadets stopped at the North Carolina Museum of History, and also the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences. The briefings continued throughout the trip at every location with cadets impressing museum and battlefield staff with their presentations.

The next stop was Smithville Armory, where cadets would spend their nights -- courtesy of the North Carolina Army National Guard. They set up cots, unloaded the activity bus, and ate a pizza dinner. That night, cadets went to the Little Neuse Theatre in Smithville and saw a play entitled Auntie Mame.

0630 (zero six-thirty) was the wake up time for all cadets Friday morning. A bit dazed, cadets hurried to get showered and dressed. Inspections and breakfast details were assigned, breakfast was eaten, and it was back on the bus for the day’s activities. Bentonville Battlefield and Goldsborough Bridge Battlefield were the morning stops along the trip. Cadets were then given an extensive tour of Seymour-Johnson Air Force Base in Goldsboro. They were accompanied by Tech Sergeant Butterfield, a base Public Affairs tour guide. Cadets got a rare opportunity and were allowed into hangers that housed two F-15E Strike Eagles. These fighter jets are among the most advanced jets used in combat today and cadets were briefed about the role and function of the jets and also got to see the ordinance that they carry.

The students ate lunch at a military Dining Facility (now called a D-FAC -- even though Werder kept calling it a chow hall) and had the opportunity to speak to active duty members of the Air Force. Cadets toured the wing’s Egress shop which was responsible for aircraft emergency systems and spoke to the airmen that pack parachutes and maintain aircraft egress systems. Students got to try on a "G- Suit," which is what the pilots wear while flying to prevent black-out or g-loc (g-force induced loss of consciousness) caused by the blood pooling in the lower part of the body when under extreme accelerations and maneuvers.

Moving on, cadets then were ushered into the pilot’s briefing room, in the headquarters of the 335th Fighter Squadron, where they got to speak to F-15 pilots and crew chiefs about the experience of flying and maintaining aircraft. The informative briefing and slide show included much of the squadron’s history dating back to its involvement with the RAF in the Battle of Britain during WWII. The 335th is known as the "World's Leading MiG Killers" for destroying 218.5 MiGs in aerial combat with their F-86 Sabres during the Korean War and for having 12 aces assigned to the squadron. It was followed by a question and answer session as well as cadet’s learning about and trying on some of the pilot’s gear.

From there cadets rushed to a POW/MIA ceremony occurring during the base retreat ceremony (the daily retreat ceremony signals the end of the official duty day and serves as a ceremony for paying respect to the flag). As retreat was played, all cadets, along with the active duty members, executed a salute as the flags were coming down and a flyover with the missing man formation flew overhead.

After the ceremony cadets were addressed by the Wing Commander, Colonel Slocum, and they then got to meet a Medal of Honor recipient, retired Colonel (then First Lieutenant) Walter Marm, who served in the Vietnam War. Col Marm spent some time with the cadets describing his experiences and what it was like being in the service. It was truly a once in a lifetime experience that the cadets won’t forget. The evening ended with a theatre performance of You’re a Good Man Charlie Brown in Goldsboro.

An early morning started the final day for cadets. First on the list was the Airborne and Special Operations Museum in Fayetteville. During the visit the students once again got a very rare opportunity to speak with a World War II veteran who was involved in the Battle of the Bulge. They then visited Fort Bragg which is where they toured the famous 82nd Airborne Division museum and the JFK Special Warfare Museum.

Arriving back at Piedmont High School, cadets unloaded the bus, gathered their belongings, and gave thanks to the cadet officers, chaperones, and the JROTC instructors. For most, this trip will not be soon forgotten.


Written by: AFJROTC Cadet Kaitlyn O’Boyle
Posted: Oct 15, 2014 by Regina Snelson

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