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Future aviators take flight

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Samantha Mathison
  • 507th Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs

TINKER AIR FORCE BASE, Okla. -- Twenty-seven future aviators from the Organization of Black Aerospace Professionals took flight aboard a 507th Air Refueling Wing KC-135 Stratotanker here June 20, 2017.

The teenagers observed as Citizen Airmen refueled three B-2 Spirit bombers as part of a week-long summer camp designed to highlight the myriad careers available in aviation.

Maj. Cory Glenn, OBAP Oklahoma City Aviation Career Education Academy director, planned and coordinated the student’s orientation flight.

According to Glenn, who is also a 465th Air Refueling Squadron KC-135 pilot, OBAP is a nonprofit organization that seeks to encourage and support minorities in aviation and aerospace professions through mentoring, scholarships, training and youth-focused programs.

“In a short three hour orientation flight, the students witnessed how several different aviation career fields were instrumental in executing an important mission,” Glenn said. “They learned it takes precision from design engineers, air traffic controllers, boom operators, pilots, mechanics and countless others to execute each flight.”

OBAP’s resources helped shape his career in both the military and in the civilian sectors, and now he helps mentor future aviators to become top-tier applicants for various aerospace careers, he said.

Every year OBAP hosts an Aviation Career Education, or ACE, academy in 26 locations across the U.S. providing middle and high school kids weeklong immersion experiences in a variety of aviation and aerospace professions.

“The Oklahoma City ACE academy specifically targets students between the ages of 11-18,” Glenn said. “We conduct science, technology, engineering and mathematics-oriented exercises and expose the students to military and civilian aviation careers.”

The future aviators spent almost the entire day with Citizen Airmen Okies, beginning the day with informative briefings on the capabilities of the KC-135 from Capt. Ed Burnet, 465th Air Refueling Squadron KC-135 pilot. The students also received safety briefings on the dangers of foreign object debris and other flight hazards.

The students then boarded the aircraft, and during the flight they had opportunities to visit the flight deck and observe the aerial refueling of B-2 Spirit bombers from the boom pod.

After landing, the teenagers shared some of their personal history, aspirations and their observations of their experience with the 507th ARW’s Citizen Airmen.

“These students come from various backgrounds and some have had limited access to what goes on here at Tinker AFB,” Glenn said. “It is very rewarding to see a student who isn't sure what they want to do have an experience that immediately inspires them to completely engage; turning a loose dream into a firm goal. These kids have the potential of enhancing the diversity here at the 507th ARW.”

Col. Dana Nelson, 507th ARW vice commander, said she hopes to inspire the youth to consider a career in aviation and the Air Force, because those who are pushing the upper limits of age must eventually move on and make way for the younger generation.

“It is necessary to continue building a talent pool of Okie aviators,” Nelson said. “Using venues like ACE Academies are just one of the many ways we can encourage people from all walks of life to consider aviation and the Air Force as career choices. It’s important to encourage diversity, because it’s the reason we are the best Air Force in the world.”