KEESLER AIR FORCE BASE, Miss. --
Second Air Force held their fourth annual “Pathways to Blue” initiative with more than 280 ROTC cadets representing 15 different colleges and universities here, April 6-7.
Throughout the two-day event, ROTC cadets and enlisted personnel traveled through this diverse and inclusive event to better aim themselves to become future Air Force leaders.
“If I were to ask you to buy a new car, what would you want to do,” said U.S. Air Force Maj. Gen. Timothy Leahy, 2nd Air Force commander. “You would want to go to different dealerships, look at the cars and ask questions about them. This is similar to ROTC cadets coming to Pathways to Blue. We give them the time to talk to someone who does a job that they are interested in. This helps them pick the job they are best suited for and gives the air force the best quality future officer.”
The target audience is freshmen, sophomores and enlisted members looking to commission but are still undecided as to where they fit in the Air Force’s mission.
The event started with opening remarks and a flight briefing by members of the 403rd Wing then moved to hands-on demonstrations of various career fields such as battlefield airmen, cyber operations, weather, remotely piloted aircraft operator, civil engineering, aerospace medicine and a mixture of other commissioning options.
U.S. Air Force Capt. Laquita Chambers, University of Southern Mississippi Air Force ROTC recruiting officer, said her cadets now have a better idea about what it takes to become an officer in the Air Force.
“Seeing the opportunities for our students to talk to the various jobs available to them is a great way for them to get an introduction to the Air Force,” said Chambers. “The mentoring isn’t just about what the job entails, but also how to get to that position, what the career path is, the type of training and education is needed. Many of the students only see pictures but to actually talk to someone to see what they did to get to that position really does help the cadets see themselves at that level.”
In addition to learning about the various career fields, cadets also stayed in base lodging, received incentive flights and participated in a speed mentoring session.
Saribel Repollet, University of Puerto Rico, Pio Piedras cadet, said her cadre, U.S. Air Force Capt. Christian Torres, University of Puerto Rico, Pio Piedras recruiting officer, was the reason they even knew about the event.
“Capt. Torres worked hard for our detachment to make it here from Puerto Rico for Pathways to Blue,” said Repollet. “He used to work at Keesler Air Force Base and knew what this program had to offer.”
In addition, Repollet feels lucky to be a part of Pathways to Blue.
“This has been a tremendous experience and I’m very fortunate to be here,” said Repollet. “The incentive flights were amazing but being able to sit down next to officers and ask them questions face-to-face has been really great. I came in with an interest in intelligence but since learning about what other jobs entail, I’m now also looking into cyber space as another option. I wasn’t really sure about what they did; but after their briefing at Pathways to Blue, it really caught my attention.”
Leahy has expressed excitement with regard to seeing who will step up and become a leader in the United States Air Force.
“We are bringing together people who are excited about what they do and watching them talk to the next generation about how great a life it is to serve our nation in the USAF,” said Leahy. “It is something that you cannot help but feel excitement for. I feel that in the past two days, we have found some of those leaders. We have found some that are going to put on the blue and that are going to follow that path and be the shield and sword of our nation. I am excited for their career and I’m excited to have them here.”
Pathways to Blue came to a close with a senior enlisted panel, followed by Leahy’s final remarks to the cadets whose future is yet to be made.
“Hopefully as you talked to the mentors here, you have pulled in a lot of good information and saw some jobs you never thought of and you said ‘man I’m interested in that’,” said Leahy. “Whether you chose to enter the Air Force or not, choose what makes you happy, because you will do it well, you will be successful at it and that will make all the difference.”