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ROTC cadets get birds-eye view of Air Force life

KEESLER AIR FORCE BASE, Miss. -- Sixty ROTC cadets have been getting an introduction to "the real Air Force" this summer while they're at Keesler for Aerospace 100 special training, commonly referred to as the ASSIST program. 

Three sessions with 12 cadets each took place during June. Two more sessions are July 10-14 and 17-21. 

Other sessions are being held at Altus Air Force Base, Okla.; Columbus AFB, Miss.; McGuire AFB, N.J., and Vandenberg AFB, Calif. 

The cadets, representing different colleges and universities, are accompanied by a field grade officer and a noncommissioned officer. 

"For many cadets, this may be their first experience at an active-duty base," said 1st Lt. Parag Shah, base ASSIST director. "They're only at Keesler for five days, so we're giving them a broad introduction to the base's mission and operations." 

ASSIST's goal is to recruit, retain and train cadets by exposing them to the daily operations of an active-duty base. They're introduced to as many facets of the base's mission as possible. Tours and demonstrations are highlighted and briefings are kept to a minimum. 

Schedules varied from group to group, and included a windshield overview of the base, a tour of Biloxi, a presentation on family support services, an introduction to the combat control career field and a meeting with chief master sergeants to share a senior enlisted perspective with the future officers. 

The cadets also visited chapels, fitness and recreation facilities, the military working dog compound, retail facilies and the air traffic control tower. 

Part of the week was spent shadowing individual company grade officers on the job. One group pitched in with hurricane repairs in a Biloxi home. 

The cadets eat in dining halls and stay in lodging facilities. Orientation flights are arranged when schedules allow.