NAVAL AIR STATION PENSACOLA, Fla. --
Pilots, boom operators and maintainers from the 6th Air Refueling Wing inspired the next generation of Airmen by highlighting the capabilities of the KC-135 Stratotanker during the 2022 Undergraduate Combat Systems Officer Training Sapphire Event at Naval Air Station Pensacola, Florida, on March 11, 2022.
Junior ROTC members, ROTC members, undergraduate combat systems officers and community partners spent time exploring the aircraft with the aircrew from the 91st Air Refueling Squadron assigned to MacDill Air Force Base, Florida.
Senior Airman Bryan Arias, a boom operator assigned to the 91st ARS , felt the experience made him appreciate his job even more.
“I think it’s beneficial to have these events and show people what we do,” said Arias. "Before I joined the Air Force, I had no idea that the KC-135 even existed and now I get to explain that it plays a huge [and] important role in all types of operations within the Air Force.”
The following day, a group of ROTC students from Florida State University joined the 91st on an orientation flight to experience an air refueling training mission over the Southeastern United States.
The group of 12 witnessed an air refueling of an RC-135 Rivet Joint, first-hand, assigned to Offutt Air Force Base, Nebraska.
The students laid in the boom-pod during refueling and spent time in the cockpit throughout the orientation flight.
“By hosting students and ROTC cadets on these types of flights, we get the chance to give them ideas for career paths that they might be interested in pursuing,” said Airman 1st Class Cassandra Wesley, a boom operator assigned to the 91st Air Refueling Squadron.
Not only did the Sapphire event expose students to aviation careers, but the event celebrated the diversity of the past, present and future aviators while honoring the first female combat systems officers of class 78-01.
“It is so important to show students that you can be a female pilot, boom and you can even be a maintainer,” said Tech. Sgt. Diandra Sims, 6th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron flying crew chief.
Jordan Williams, FSU ROTC cadet, explained that she felt the experience was eye-opening for many as she witnessed students discussing the excitement of the flight and their excitement to be the future of the U.S. Air Force.
“This is great exposure,” said Williams. “Seeing all of the different things you can accomplish as part of the Air force has been amazing.”
The 6th ARW remains committed to building an agile and diverse force to inspire future leaders and will continue to offer orientation flights to strengthen community relationships and motivate students to chase their goals.
“I know that I have the future watching me,” said Sims. “No matter what people say, you can do anything that you want to do.”