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Preparing for future with tomorrow’s leaders

By By Senior Airman Racheal Watson

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SOUTHWEST ASIA, June 29, 2015 - Retired U.S. Army Gen. Colin Powell once said, “There are no secrets to success. It is the result of preparation, hard work and learning from failure.”

Cadets from the United States Air Force Academy traveled to an undisclosed location in Southwest Asia as part of a summer program to obtain hands-on training prior to entering the operational Air Force.

Operation Air Force, also known as Ops AF, is a USAFA graduation-requirement summer program that is cited by a majority of cadets as contributing greatly to their decisions about which career field to pursue.

The U.S. Air Force Academy jumpstarts future Air Force leaders by preparing cadets with education and giving them an opportunity through the Ops AF program to see the hard work men and women put forth behind the scenes to accomplish missions around the world.

“Between the sophomore and junior year, every cadet has to do Ops AF either at a stateside or a deployed location,” said Cadet Jesse Chasteen. “To be selected for a deployed location, cadets have to submit an application.”

The deployed location application is a competitive program that selects the top 100 cadets who perform well, both academically and militarily.

“We’ve visited various operational and logistic career fields during our stay,” said Chasteen. “We’ve learned how squadrons depend on each other to get the mission done.”

Cadets learned about the mission and how to lead people through the complexity of an operation. They also met with company grade officers and chief master sergeants who shared some of their experiences and gave advice to the future leaders.

“Humility and professionalism are keys to being a good leader,” Chasteen recalled from his discussion with senior leaders from the 386th Air Expeditionary Wing.

Chasteen cited one of his instructors who commented that one day he will be the person standing in front of the base commander giving a briefing. This experience made Chasteen’s one day into today.

“I was one of those cadets who wanted to be a pilot [when I came here], but after being out here and seeing different career fields, it’s pulling my attention away,” said Cadet Kyle Post. “It’s an eye-opening to see other rated career fields that are just as interesting or more interesting, to me, than being a pilot.”

Successful future Air Force leaders prepare for tomorrow through an education at the USAFA and understanding of the hard work of maintainers, who keep the aircraft flying, the defenders, who keep the installation secure, and the engineers, who build the tents we live in.

“These cadets represent the next 20 years of our Air Force and for them to see first-hand the deployed challenges our Airmen face is invaluable, especially considering the fact that in roughly two years they’ll be charged with leading these same Airmen,” said Maj. Jeremy Farlaino, 386th Air Expeditionary Wing deputy wing plans and programs.