Operation Air Force: Academy cadets shadow military members during summer break

TINKER AIR FORCE BASE -- As thousands of college coeds bask in the summer sun, nearly 50 Air Force cadets are exploring career possibilities at Tinker.
   The cadets are participating in Operation Air Force, an internship that doubles as a work and mentorship program. Initiated by Secretary of the Air Force Michael Wynne and Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. T. Michael Moseley, a session is three weeks long and hosts cadets from the United States Air Force Academy and the Air Force Reserves Officer Training Corps. Tinker is hosting three groups comprised solely of academy cadets.
   "This program is important because it really helps the cadets gain an understanding of how the operational Air Force works," said 2nd Lt. Christina Bell, Operation Air Force deputy director. "The cadets are lucky to be at Tinker, getting to experience many different organizations on one base."
   Because Tinker is home to several wings and associate units, the cadets are exploring different areas including the 552nd Air Control Wing, the Oklahoma City Air Logistics Center and squadrons within the 72nd Air Base Wing.
   Cadets also are divided into groups based on their school year. Sophomores are grouped with noncommissioned officers to focus on the enlisted perspective and are mentored by senior NCOs. This is similar to the Operation Air Force Rising Sophomore program, which Tinker hosted last summer.
   Cadet Blaine Hainebach, of Oklahoma City, is a sophomore majoring in Systems Engineering. He is shadowing Master Sgt. Jay Brimmer, aircraft section chief for the 552nd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron. Since his session began, Cadet Hainebach said he's learned about pre-flight maintenance, getting an aircraft airborne and seeing the flight line in action.
   "It is important to understand all levels of responsibility out there and I hope they leave here with an idea of how maintenance works from the wrench turners to the commander," Sgt. Brimmer said.
   Junior cadets are grouped with company grade officer duties in operational and support units. Here, cadets are either working on independent projects or as an intern beside a CGO. In addition to gaining an understanding of operational and support units, cadets are also exploring possible career fields.
   Cadet Joseph Eastman, of New Jersey, is a junior majoring in Social Science. He said through working with 1st Lt. Pete Eshenour, deputy financial services officer with the 72nd Comptroller Squadron, he has gained a great deal of respect for finance projects within the 72nd ABW.
   "I have a bigger appreciation for jobs (within the Air Force) and how the Air Force operates," he said.
   Cadet Joshua Newman, of O'ahu, Hawaii, agreed.
   "This is motivation to get through the next two years and become a better officer," he said. Cadet Newman is majoring in English with a minor in Japanese. He is also shadowing Lt. Eshenour.
   Senior cadets are grouped together to explore their area of interest. At Tinker, the cadets are assigned to a CGO and exposed to a field grade officer's work center.
   This group's session will end July 13. The final session will begin July 16 and continue to Aug. 3.
   As the second group heads out and third group gets settled, Lt. Bell offers words of wisdom.
   "My advice is that the cadets take full advantage of their mentor's knowledge and experience," Lt. Bell said. "It's so important that they realize how the enlisted side of the Air Force works because in a few short years, they'll be supervisors and leaders. Working with CGOs gives them vital insight into what will be expected of them in just one to three years."