Operation Air Force builds future leaders

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Deanna Muir
  • 23rd Wing Public Affairs

Throughout the summer of 2022, 36 U.S. Air Force Academy cadets visited Moody Air Force Base, Georgia, for a peek into the operational Air Force.

Operation Air Force is a required program that provides cadets an opportunity to explore Air Force bases and find what interests them before receiving their commission as second lieutenants.

“This is the first experience they get to see how an active duty officer operates at an actual base,” said Capt. Riley Nix, A-10C Thunderbolt II pilot and USAFA graduate. “It gives them a little bit of hope and light at the end of the tunnel. It's important because this is going to shape their career down the road.”

During their time at Moody, cadets spoke with wing and squadron leadership about the missions they lead. Additionally, they flew in an HC-130J Combat King II, an HH-60W Jolly Green II, and sat in the cockpit of an A-10C Thunderbolt II. To top off their visit, the cadets spent a day rappelling with the 820th Base Defense Group.

“Getting to see the rescue mission of this base has been really incredible,” said USAFA Cadet 2nd Class Olivia Hillburn. “I really didn't know anything about it – I just knew I wanted to fly helicopters. Getting to see how (each aircraft) works together, all the different crews that are out here, it's been a really good thing for me.”

By exploring various career fields and the culture that comes with each one, the cadets were able to better understand which career path suits them.

“I want to be a pilot but I don't know what aircraft,” said USAFA Cadet 2nd Class Wesley Bailey. “Being able to see the different lifestyles and the cultures around each aircraft has helped, as well as having a backup plan and see what could fit me well.”

As the cadets grow closer to their graduation date, they will soon face the decision about which career path they would like to pursue in the Air Force, a decision that could change their life as they know it. For Nix, he hopes their visit to Moody opened their eyes to the many paths the Air Force can take them.

“I hope that they take away that the Air Force has a lot to offer when they get out of the academy,” Nix said. “They write their own destiny. If they want to do something specific, go for it.”

After their two-week visit, the cadets left with more knowledge about the operational Air Force than when they arrived and had positive things to say about Team Moody.

“I'm super grateful for this base and all the people here for having us,” Hillburn said. “We're coming into their homes and the places they work and they've been super excited to show us the ropes and get us involved. It’s been a great experience.”