KADENA AIR BASE, Japan -- Most students, at some point or another in their lives, hear the questions, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” and, “What are you going to do after you graduate?”. It’s a question students may hear as early as kindergarten and all throughout high school. Some people know what they want to do and take a straight path toward their future. For others it can be a windy road with twists and turns.
Students at Kadena High School who join the Air Force Junior Reserve Officers Training Corps may take the first step toward a career in the U.S Air Force after graduation and Team Kadena’s Company Grade Officer Council and Top Three are there to help pave their way. This information can be a lot to take in, that’s why Team Kadena’s CGOC and Top Three have set up a mentorship program to help KHS JROTC cadets put a face to a career field.
There are hundreds of career fields in the Air Force to choose from and this information can be a lot to take in for students interested in planning their careers. Jobs can range from maintainers to policemen, from lawyers to doctors, and from chaplains to special forces. The roles of those jobs can also vary based upon the location of the unit and its mission requirements.
“This program gives students the opportunity to pave their own way and get them to their end goal,” said U.S. Air Force Senior Master Sgt. Kim Wiessner, 18th Equipment Maintenance Squadron armament flight chief. “Basically, we're trying to set this program up so we can get them in touch with anyone in any career they may be interested in.”
The program accomplishes this by working together with the JROTC instructors and units stationed at Kadena Air Base to provide career briefings, unit tours and program mentors. During one of the tours, cadets got the opportunity to tour the 18th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron and learn about Air Force careers in the medical field. Cadets got to see the equipment used to train medics, learn about the enlisted and officer roles from active duty Airmen, and gain insight to a career field that some of the cadets may have never known existed.
“Aeromedical Evacuation is a small career field,” explained Master Sgt. Susanna Rogers, 18th AES flight operations chief. “So, a lot of people don’t really know what we do or that we even exist.”
In some of the briefings, cadets learned the 18th AES has the largest area of operations of its kind in the military, reaching from the Horn of Africa to Alaska. The 18th AES deploys, establishes and operates elements of a theater aeromedical evacuation system, including a mobile staging facility, evacuation command and control, and crews for worldwide taskings.
“No matter where you are in the Air Force, at any point in time that you are hurt, you know the Air Force is there for you and will get you to a hospital so you can get the care you need,” Rogers said. “When I joined, I went to my recruiter and viewed what jobs were available in the Air Force, they set a huge book in front of me with all the different Air Force Specialty Codes,” Rogers continued. She couldn't really explain what it was or exactly what I would be doing and all I saw were all these different titles with numbers next to them.”
Rogers said she didn’t know what any of them meant, but had a sister already in the medical career field in the Air Force.
“I went in that direction because I knew about it and thankfully it worked out,” said Rogers. “If these kids can go around the base and see all these different career fields and different things available to them then they may be better informed and choose a job that they really want to do.”
According to Weissner, Team Kadena’s CGOC and Top Three’s JROTC mentorship program was started in 2018 to help JROTC cadets and hopes other CGOCs and Top Three’s across the U.S. Air Force start up similar programs and help Air Force JROTC cadets along the path to joining the Air Force.
“If I have this opportunity when I was younger, I think I would have been better prepared to join the world's greatest air force in a career that I really wanted to do,” said Weissner. “Our end goal is for the student’s to be able to connect with anyone worldwide and answer any of their questions about the career of their choice and help pave their way.”