STEAM train: Cadets learn art of leadership

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Ryan Grossklag
  • 6th Air Mobility Wing Public Affairs

MacDill Airmen painted Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics experiences during the second iteration of Operations Air Force to help Reserve Officer Training Corps and U.S. Air Force Academy cadets decide on future career paths and witness the art of leadership.

The two-week summer program, here, gave three groups of cadets a glimpse of life on an active base and a break from their rigorous training routines.

“Operations Air Force gives the cadets an immersive, hands-on experience of what it is like to be in the Air Force,” said Capt. Christopher Flaute, the MacDill Operations Air Force director assigned to the 50th Air Refueling Squadron. “This program also provides cadets an opportunity to work alongside military members, receive mentorship and experience different careers over a two-week stay.”

The cadets visited various units such as the 6th Maintenance Squadron, the 6th Security Forces Squadron and the 6th Civil Engineer Squadron and flew on a KC-135 Stratotanker refueling mission.

The flight also served as a flying classroom; Master Sgt. Alexander Griffin, 6th Air Mobility Wing Public Affairs superintendent, and Master Sgt. John Verrecchio, base career advisor at the Professional Development Center, offered in-air mentorship and advice.

“There’s value for the cadets to see the enlisted and officer interaction at work in the active duty workplace rather than the training environment that they’re used to,” said Verrecchio. “This gives them the opportunity to understand how we all work together and the level of dignity and respect shown in a team.”

From each career field they shadowed and the Airmen's stories they heard, the cadets took away tidbits that mold them into future leaders.

“Being here gives all of us an idea of everything that goes into base operations,” said Cadet Drew DeLong, a student from AFROTC Detachment 410 at St. Thomas University, St. Paul, Minnesota. “Experiencing the work being done gives insight and allows us to get our feet wet on what to expect.”

Spending time with enlisted Airmen and commissioned officers gave the cadets perspective of the collaboration necessary by all parties to achieve a common goal.

“Even when we commission and put on second lieutenant, we have to understand senior enlisted members have the experience to lead a group of Airmen,” said DeLong. “Being able to work together [develops] each of us as leaders.”

MacDill showed cadets the tactical units to assist with their career field decisions, but the leadership lessons proved being an Air Force leader is not only fixing aircraft or flying missions, it's the art of cultivating and contributing to a cohesive team.