Story by Richard Essary on 08/01/2019HILL AIR FORCE BASE, Utah -- Air Force ROTC cadets from around the country visited Hill Air Force Base this summer to get a taste of what Air Force life will be like after graduation.
More than 80 cadets from nearly 60 colleges took part in a professional development training program called Operation Air Force. The purpose of the program is to give ROTC cadets a greater understanding of the Air Force while introducing them to a variety of career fields.
Capt. Martinus Davis, a flight commander with the 75th Logistics Readiness Squadron and the base's Operation Air Force program liaison, said the cadets participating in the program recently completed their first or second year of college.
Eventually they will be required to decide on possible career paths and upon college graduation will be commissioned as second lieutenants in the Air Force.
Davis said learning about the different careers offered to Air Force officers is one of the main draws of the program.
"You can look up an AFSC (Air Force Specialty Code) online, but you really don't know much about it until you can talk to someone in that career field," Davis said. "If you ask the cadets what they want to do, about half of them will raise their hands and say they want to be a pilot."
However, he said he's seen cadets change their minds after talking with officers from different career fields.
Cadet Cameron Gunst was one of cadets who visited Hill AFB and said it was one of the highlights of the program. She is about to begin her sophomore year studying communications at California State University in Sacramento.
"We're told about career fields all the time, but this trip we were able see in person what we've only heard about before," she said.
Gunst wants to be an intelligence officer, but as a result of Operation Air Force said she's now considering public affairs and law enforcement as possible career choices.
In addition, she said cadets at her ROTC detachment in Sacramento often have questions about certain Air Force career fields. Gunst said she's now in position to share what she's learned from her visit.
Over the two-week program, cadets participated in briefings and orientations with the base's fire department, maintenance, munitions, explosive ordnance disposal, weather, air traffic control, security forces, medical, and logistics units. Davis said more than 20 units supported the visit altogether.
James Embro, a cadet studying aerospace engineering at Embry-Riddle in Prescott, Arizona, said his experience at Hill was a like drinking from a firehose, because of everything he learned.
"As an ROTC cadet, everything is very formal. You're in a training environment and learning about the military basics," Embro said.
Visiting Hill allowed him to see the Air Force in an operational setting.
"Walking into someone's work environment and seeing them work together has been eye opening," Embro said. "I want to be a pilot, but if that doesn't work out, almost everyone I've met says they love their job, and it's good to know there's something beyond flying."
The cadets also took part in mentorship and panel discussions with junior officers and non-commissioned officers on topics ranging from examples of bad and good leadership, leading from the front, a unit's expectations of a new lieutenant, balancing work and family life, and taking care of people.
Davis said the panels were intended to give the cadets perspective from the very Airmen they one day will be leading.
Aside from the tours and briefings, Gunst and Embro also enjoyed meeting Hill's Airmen and their fellow cadets.
"We made some pretty good friends. We've developed some great relationships," Embro said.
A total of four cadet groups visited the base for Operation Air Force over the summer. The last group visited July 15 through Aug. 1.