USAFA cadets explore AWACS mission during 552 ACW visit

  • Published
  • By 2d Lt Danny Rangel
  • 552nd Air Control Wing

Twenty-three cadets from the U.S Air Force Academy caught a glimpse of the operational Air Force during their visit to Tinker Air Force Base and the 552nd Air Control Wing, Feb. 27 to March 1.

Members of the 966th Airborne Air Control Squadron hosted the event, which included tours of wing facilities, senior leader briefings and a flight aboard the E-3 Sentry Air Warning and Control System.

For the 966th AACS, the visit was a unique chance to inform future Air Force leaders about the career fields represented on the E-3 Sentry aircraft.

“The intent of the visit was to expose future officers, who are at a pivotal decision point in their career field selection, in the mission of the 552nd ACW,” said Capt. Jason Gabrick, an Air Battle Manager and flight commander for the 966th AACS.  “The focus of the visit was the unique mission of airborne battle management, and to create touchpoints and bridges between operators and cadets.”

The cadet visit was part of the Sponsor Wing Visit Program, a U.S. Air Force Academy initiative meant to link cadet squadrons with operational units throughout the Air Force.  The intent of the program is to provide cadets with a greater understanding of different Air Force missions at a time where many cadets are preparing to choose a career field.

As part of the visit, cadets had the opportunity to see the 552nd ACW’s capabilities during an airborne training mission on the E-3 AWACS.  The training flight allowed members of the 966th AACS to showcase ABM capabilities during a tactical intercept mission, which included four F-16 Fighting Falcons from the 8th Fighter Squadron at Holloman Air Force Base, New Mexico.  Cadets were able to observe air battle managers as they performed air control duties in a realistic scenario.

“The importance of the cadets being exposed to the mission of the 552nd ACW is to show the cadets how we integrate different forces as an Air Force,” said Maj. Ian Haig, Air Officer Commanding, Cadet Squadron 32, U.S. Air Force Academy.  “These cadets may be making strategic level decisions as soon as they commission if they decide to go into one of these career fields represented here at an air control wing.”

For cadets, the visit also offered an opportunity to closely observe operational Airmen as they performed their regular duties.

“It’s been really eye-opening to learn more about different career fields and get a great introduction to the Air Battle Manager field,” said Cadet First Class Helen Landwehr, U.S. Air Force Academy.  “When we were flying on the AWACS, my favorite thing was seeing people do something they’re really passionate about. It’s important for future officers to see how interactions work in the Air Force, which can then help us select career fields we might be best suited for.”