Academy cadets tour Beale operations

Two cadets from the U.S. Air Force Academy observe Senior Master Sgt. Jim Martin, 314th Air Refueling Squadron boom operator, as he prepares for a refueling trainer mission June 9, 2017. Cadets were given an incentive flight to learn more about the operational Air Force as part of their Ops Air Force tour. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Tara R. Abrahams)

Two cadets from the U.S. Air Force Academy observe Senior Master Sgt. Jim Martin, 314th Air Refueling Squadron boom operator, as he prepares for a refueling trainer mission June 9, 2017. Cadets were given an incentive flight to learn more about the operational Air Force as part of their Ops Air Force tour. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Tara R. Abrahams)

Cadets from the U.S. Air Force Academy board a KC-135 Stratotanker June 9, 2017, at Beale Air Force Base, California. The cadets were able to watch the tanker refuel F-16C Fighting Falcons from the 388th Fighter Wing at Hill Air Force Base, Utah, 21,000 feet in the air. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Tristan Viglianco)

Cadets from the U.S. Air Force Academy board a KC-135 Stratotanker June 9, 2017, at Beale Air Force Base, California. The cadets were able to watch the tanker refuel F-16C Fighting Falcons from the 388th Fighter Wing at Hill Air Force Base, Utah, 21,000 feet in the air. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Tristan Viglianco)

An F-16C Fighting Falcon from the 388th Fighter Wing at Hill Air Force Base, Utah, flies behind a KC-135 Stratotanker from the 314th Air Refueling Squadron at Beale AFB, California, June 9, 2017. The Fighting Falcon was refueled by the Stratotanker during an air refueling trainer mission. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Andrew Moore)

An F-16C Fighting Falcon from the 388th Fighter Wing at Hill Air Force Base, Utah, flies behind a KC-135 Stratotanker from the 314th Air Refueling Squadron at Beale AFB, California, June 9, 2017. The Fighting Falcon was refueled by the Stratotanker during an air refueling trainer mission. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Andrew Moore)

U.S. Air Force Academy Cadet 2nd Class Sonya Kang sits in a KC-135 Stratotanker June 9, 2017, while it prepares for landing at Beale Air Force Base, California. Kang plans to graduate in 2019. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Tara R. Abrahams)

U.S. Air Force Academy Cadet 2nd Class Sonya Kang sits in a KC-135 Stratotanker June 9, 2017, while it prepares for landing at Beale Air Force Base, California. Kang plans to graduate in 2019. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Tara R. Abrahams)

F-16C Fighting Falcons from the 388th Fighter Wing at Hill Air Force Base, Utah, fly together June 9, 2017. The Fighting Falcons were refueled by a KC-135 Stratotanker during an air refueling trainer mission. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Andrew Moore)

F-16C Fighting Falcons from the 388th Fighter Wing at Hill Air Force Base, Utah, fly together June 9, 2017. The Fighting Falcons were refueled by a KC-135 Stratotanker during an air refueling trainer mission. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Andrew Moore)

Eleven United States Air Force Academy cadets pose for a photo June 9, 2017, at Beale Air Force Base, California. The cadets were visiting the base for their Ops Air Force tour. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Tara R. Abrahams)

Eleven United States Air Force Academy cadets pose for a photo June 9, 2017, at Beale Air Force Base, California. The cadets were visiting the base for their Ops Air Force tour. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Tara R. Abrahams)

BEALE AIR FORCE BASE, California --

Eleven Air Force Academy cadets flew on a KC-135 Stratotanker air refueling trainer mission June 9 as part of their Ops Air Force tour.

 

All third-year cadets are allotted time at Air Force bases to observe and explore prospective career fields. The graduating class of 2019 was split into groups of 10 to 15 and sent to bases around the world for two weeks.

 

One of the stops for Beale’s group was with the 314th Air Refueling Squadron of the Air Force Reserve’s 940th Air Refueling Wing. The cadets were brought on a flight to watch the Stratotanker refuel F-16C Fighting Falcons from the 388th Fighter Wing at Hill Air Force Base, Utah, 21,000 feet in the air.

 

The tour allowed the cadets to connect with the operational Air Force. It provided the cadets the opportunity to learn about base functions and careers they are interested in, as well as some positions they may not have considered.

 

“It opened up the pilot sector,” said Cadet 2nd Class Sonya Kang. “I never really considered it…but now it’s an option.”

 

Kang was most interested in becoming a psychologist, but also looking into flying remotely piloted aircraft. She opened her mind to other aircraft after spending time at Beale, with both the Reserve and active-duty flying squadrons.

 

“Cadets usually just think about mainstream aircraft,” she said. “We don’t really think about high-altitude planes, so this tour helped me think about those kinds of planes and their availability in terms of careers.”

 

Some cadets were already planning to pursue careers in the air. Cadet 2nd Class Austin Box said he is most interested in the F-15E Strike Eagle and the C-17 Globemaster III, but is willing to fly anything. The Ops Air Force tour helped solidify that dream, he said.

 

“It definitely emphasized me wanting to be a pilot. One of the coolest parts was looking at the F-16 and having that perspective, thinking ‘that could be me one day.’”