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Military Career Day and Summer Job Shadowing at Nellis Air Force Base

Military Career Day and Summer Job Shadowing at Nellis Air Force Base

By 1st Lt. Michael Atkin, CAP
Deputy Commander
Nellis Composite Squadron

During a teleconference in the early spring of this year, I heard Col. Carol Lynn review the results of a Cadet survey that clearly stated the Cadets wanted more exposure to the military and the jobs available to them. I started thinking about what I could do to set up a program and get the Cadets involved. As the Deputy Commander at the Nellis Composite Squadron, I have a unique set of resources available to me due to my location on Base. The only question I had was "What format should this program take on?" How do I get the Cadets the exposure they want with the active-duty Airmen who do the jobs that interest the Cadets? This was going to take more than a single 60 minute tour. I had to get the Cadets inside the squadrons, inside the flight, for some real exposure to active-duty life. I thought about it for a few days and then the idea came with an e-mail. While reading my e-mail one day I was contacted by a former Cadet who was interested in donating his old BDU's back to the squadron. I contacted him and advised him we were in the process of switching over to ABU's so the BDU's were no longer useful to us. During our conversation, he relayed to me that he worked on Base as a Special Agent with the Air Force Office of Special Investigations. This was music to my ears! I asked him if he would be willing to come over to the Squadron and speak to the Cadets about his profession, his background, and how his past as a CAP Cadet influenced his career decision. He was excited to do it, and he told me he could bring along a few friends to talk about their careers. This was so great! So, in April of 2017 "Military Career Night" was born, and it included several Agents from the Office of Special Investigations - Including a former Air Force active-duty member who later became an Agent, a West Point Graduate who served in the U.S. Army Infantry in Afghanistan and later transferred to the Air Force as an Agent, and a third Agent who took the college route before coming into the Air Force. Also presenting that night was a Nellis F-35 pilot who gave a presentation about his education and background, and all the training it took to become an F-35 pilot. Career Night was a huge success. Nellis Composite hosted Cadets from several of the Las Vegas squadrons. Overall, about 30 cadets and 10 Senior Members took part in this presentation; with very positive responses from all that attended. 

This was a good start, but I didn't feel like it really got the Cadets the personal attention they needed. Summer was rapidly approaching and school was coming to an end... and then it hit me! Summer job shadowing. Small groups of Cadets embedded with the active-duty squadrons for part of the day: Learning from the professionals, getting hands-on experience, and having some fun. Now I had a clear mission. I would arrange for the Cadets to job shadow a few of the squadrons at Nellis AFB for the summer. How do I do this? Since time was limited, I thought of how much fun the Cadets had at Career Night and I decided to ask several of the speakers from Career Night if they would be interested in hosting the Cadets or a summer job shadowing program. I can't tell you how happy I was that Nellis welcomed the Civil Air Patrol in with open arms! I met with the individuals who would be hosting the Cadets, ensured we had the proper clearances with all the Commanders of the individual squadrons, and worked out a schedule for the Cadets to job shadow. The scheduling was the easiest part because as I learned, Nellis hosts college ROTC and Air Force Academy Cadets throughout the summer for almost the same type of job shadowing program. With the addition of CAP Cadets, we had to agree on the number of slots available and how many sessions Nellis could accommodate. Now with a schedule in place, the e-mail went out to all the Las Vegas squadron Commanders about the event. Again, the response was overwhelming. I had no problem finding interested Cadets and completely filling all the available positions for the entire summer. Over the time period of mid-June through July, the summer job shadowing program was able to host approximately 50 Cadets and 15 Senior Members (as chaperones). The F-35 program allowed the Cadets the opportunity to take part in such hands-on activities as: learning about the life support equipment and g-suits pilots wear, trying on the F-35 helmet and learning how to calibrate the integrated display in the Helmet's visor, planning a Red Flag-type mission and allocation the available assets to successfully complete that mission, and finally and up close tour of the F-35 Joint Strikes Fighter itself. The Cadets were also given the opportunity to see some of the foreign military equipment in the Threat Assessment Center and learn how that equipment affected the development of the F-35. As an aside, I was amazed to learn the F-35 helmet is individually fit to each pilot and costs $500,000 each! I am pleased to report that no CAP Cadet damaged any of the helmets!

The Office of Special Investigations program allowed the Cadets to get an in-depth look at law enforcement and the investigative techniques used to keep the military and its personnel safe. The Cadets also learned about the equipment needed to do the job and how Agents help safe-guard the "black" programs the Air Force currently has in development. During one of the programs, the Cadets got to meet a group of current Air Force Academy Cadets and learn a little about life as a Cadet at the Academy. 

So, the summer job shadowing program was a success! I was very pleased that so many Cadets got to take part in the program. I'm also very grateful to the Senior Members who volunteered to act as chaperones. I hope they an equally good time! Commanders: I intend to expand this program next summer to include something in the medical field, and possibly some ride-along with the Security Forces. Watch your email for further details as summer 2018 approaches! Finally, I would like to thank the Air Force Office of Special Investigations and the 422d Test and Evaluation Squadron at Nellis AFB for their time and assistance with this program. Without the cooperation and hospitality of our Air Force partners, these types of programs would not exist. I hope to see everyone next summer!

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