MacDill hosts AIM event with 85th FTS

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Joshua Hastings
  • 6th Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs

The 6th Air Refueling Wing hosted an Aviation Inspiration Mentorship event at MacDill Air Force Base, Florida on Oct. 15 that included a meet-and-greet with instructor pilots assigned to the 85th Flying Training Squadron out of Laughlin Air Force Base, Texas and a KC-135 Stratotanker static display.

The 6th Air Refueling Wing was the first wing to implement the AIM program, which supports community outreach and engagement by informing and inspiring prospective Air Force pilots. The program focuses on impacting youth members who represent a variety of economic and cultural backgrounds, inspiring them in hopes of becoming an aviator one day.

“I found out about the AIM program after being sent on a temporary duty assignment to Eglin AFB in June 2021 to support the AIM High Flight Academy,” said Air Force Capt. Orchydia Sackey, 50th Air Refueling Squadron executive officer and 6th ARW AIM director. “I had the opportunity to take students up on an air refueling mission where we refueled F-22s and F-35s. After returning from the TDY, I looked at becoming a member [of AIM] and have been one ever since.”

Participants of the event here included University of Central Florida AFROTC cadets, Naval Sea cadets with the American Victory Division and local Hillsborough County students. The participants sat on the wings of T-6A Texan II aircraft as they picked the brains of the 85th FTS instructor pilots.

“There’s so much value in having the AIM students interact with instructors currently assigned to UPT [Undergraduate Pilot Training] bases,” Sackey said. “The instructors have the most knowledge and accurate perspective on what UPT currently looks like because it constantly changes. They can give timely advice to potential future aviators that someone a few years removed from the UPT pipeline would not have.”

The 85th FTS instructor pilots came to Florida for an exercise as part of their training syllabus, but also made time to give back to MacDill’s community members through the mentorship program. Unlike the instructor pilots who fly T-6A aircraft, Sackey currently flies the KC-135 during refueling missions with the 50th ARS.

“The purpose of AIM isn't to necessarily create tanker pilots, but aviators,” Sackey said. “I think the more exposure we are able to get these students, the more informed and better prepared they will when making the decision to become Air Force pilots.”

One of the participants of the AIM event was Jack Ubben, UCF AFROTC cadet, who had recently earned one of the competitive Air Force pilot slots.

“It’s really special to be able to see the operational Air Force side that, we as cadets, don’t think get to see enough of,” Ubben said. “To see KC-135s, while talking to operational pilots, there’s nothing better than that. That experience for me broadens my understanding of what the Air Force has to offer.”

As an active AIM wing, the 6th ARW is dedicated to continuing community outreach and displaying the best parts of being an Air Force pilot.