The Sky is the Limit

  • Published
  • By Capt. Danielle Hudson
  • 6th Air Refueling Wing, Public Affairs

“The sky is the limit.” That is the phrase that could describe the recent trip members from the 6th Air Refueling Wing took to St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands.

This wasn’t a vacation trip; it was a part of the Air Force Recruiting Service’s Aviation Inspiration Mentorship (AIM) High program which provides students with experienced U.S. Air Force aviators and mentors.

The aviators and mentors also provided the students with information about aviation careers, flying opportunities, and their experiences as Air Force aviators.

For one pilot of this trip, Captain Orchydia Sackey assigned to the 50th Air Refueling Squadron, it was extra special. Sackey was born and raised on the island, and it was the first time she flew a KC-135 back to her home.

Sackey was given a warm welcome home as family and friends lined the fence as she landed the aircraft, and the Virgin Islands Port Authority’s airport fire fighters performed a water salute while taxiing.

Her parents were filled with joy as they walked to the aircraft to hug her. “I am speechless as it means the world to me for her to come home and give back to her community,” Sackey’s father, Larry Sackey said.

Sackey wanted to be a pilot since her first commercial flight as a young girl but didn’t always know it was possible. She had the same thoughts of bringing her accomplishments to St. Croix.

“I always thought that it was impossible,” said Sackey. “Whenever the conversation came up to do two [off-site visits] under the AIM program, I figured why not suggest it. For the first time, I realized it was possible.”

More than 1,500 children along with former teachers, friends, family, and supportive Crucians came out for over two days to see the KC-135, speak with Air Force aviators, and meet their hometown hero, Capt Sackey.

“Our humble beginnings are an asset, not a disadvantage,” said Sackey. “If a small girl from a small island in the middle of the Caribbean Sea can go on to fly big planes for the greatest Air Force in the world, you can do anything— if you have the will to do so.

The show of support was overwhelming as one local said, “The entire island came out to support Capt Sackey and the U.S. Air Force.”

Sackey made sure to appreciate every part of the trip. “This has been the most memorable trip in my Air Force career— the whole thing was a dream,” said Sackey. “When we were on final approach, I slowed down because I didn’t know if I would ever have the opportunity to do this again. The people of St. Croix rallied around the crew and I in a way I never could have imagined. I can say that I landed on the runway where it all started. It was on that runway I decided I wanted to become a pilot. At the time, I would’ve never imagined I’d get the opportunity to land back there as not just a pilot, but as a U.S Air Force pilot!”

Sackey wasn’t the only Crucian from MacDill who went on the mission. Kishima Garcia, Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer, accompanied the aircrew to her hometown of St. Croix.

“This mission has made me proud for several reasons in my position, it is important for me to show the impact of diversity and inclusion impacts for not only our youth but community. I am also from the Virgin Islands, and I felt a sense of pride being a part of bringing someone home who is a staple in our community and can help inspire other Crucians to do well,” said Garcia. “I felt proud because Capt. Sackey was the first black female pilot I had met, and she happened to be from my hometown of St. Croix.”

Mr. Sackey said that his daughter coming back showed fellow islanders that the sky is the limit and you can do anything you want to do in life.

Sackey was flooded with pride seeing how her small-island dream of becoming a pilot has now become a reality of inspiring the next generation of aviators. “The most meaningful part of the trip was seeing my former teachers bring their current classes to the jet,” said Sackey. “It was nostalgic but also inspiring. I was reminded of how lasting an impact you can have on a person if you just take the time to plant a seed. She is humble in knowing it was the help of the people around her that made her dream a reality. “My teachers planted many seeds, some of which have grown into determination, perseverance, discipline, and a hunger for knowledge. They are the village that made me who I am today, so seeing them as future pilots, doctors, mechanics, teachers, lawyers, and carpenters, was full circle.”

This AIM trip was to inspire the next generation of aviators of the Virgin Islands and without warning, the people of St. Croix inspired the crew from the 6th Air Refueling Wing.