AFCENT, 15 AF and 20 FW team up for Project Quesada

  • Published
  • By Capt Lauren Linscott
  • Ninth Air Force (Air Forces Central)

Units from Ninth Air Force (Air Forces Central), 15th Air Force and the 20th Fighter Wing worked together to host an engagement for 35 local high school students from Florence 1 School District’s Advantage Academy, here, Nov. 30.

The engagement was part of Project Quesada, a new Air Combat Command-led program designed to attract and recruit talented students seeking careers in aviation, science, technology, engineering and math in an effort to develop future aviators and leaders. The goal of the visit was to, in line with Project Quesada initiatives, introduce the students to STEM career fields available within the Air Force.

"At Advantage Academy Career Center we want our students to have the competitive edge when they enter the workforce, so it is very important that we build our engineering, aviation, cybersecurity, and 17 other Career and Technology Education (CTE) programs as robust as possible,” said Mr. Cameron Shepard, Advantage Academy Business & Education Coordinator. "Shaw Air Force Base is the perfect location to showcase so many career pathways and get students excited about their future occupation.”

During their visit, the students had the opportunity to visit the 20th Component Maintenance Squadron engine back shop and see first-hand the work that goes into maintaining an F-16 Fighting Falcon engine. The students also visited the ACC Viper Demo Team and had an opportunity to ask the team questions about what it takes to be a pilot and maintain the aircraft.

“Nothing beats hands-on experience,” said Shepard. "Talking to our students about future opportunities in a classroom is one thing, but allowing them to have a first-hand look at what could be their future is a completely different experience. The tour provided a tremendous opportunity for our students to interact and engage with the service members at Shaw which is not something I think the students will soon forget."

Additionally, the group had a rare opportunity to see 609th Air Support Squadron, 609th Air Communications Squadron, and AFCENT/A6 cybersecurity Airmen at work in the 609th ACOMS building, ensuring constant vigilance over U.S. Central Command airspace. The Advantage Academy students wrapped up their tour at Fifteenth Air Force’s 50th Attack Squadron, receiving a briefing about MQ-9 operations and then testing what they learned in a flight simulator.

“Engaging students at such a formative time of their lives not only provides awareness of the future they could have in the Air Force but also provides overall awareness of the military forces that serve and protect them,” said Maj. Gen. Clark Quinn, 9 AF (AFCENT) deputy commander. “As we get further and further removed from the "Greatest Generation" in which nearly every family member had a relative who served, it is critical to our nation’s defense that we show young men and women the Air Force mission and our values. I’m proud that AFCENT got to be a part of the Florence Advantage Academy students’ curriculum.”

As ACC units work to advance Project Quesada objectives, the partners on Shaw plan to host similar engagements in 2023 with youth from around the Midlands.