Cadets in the Air Force Reserve Officer Training Corps at East Carolina University recently got a chance to experience the thrill of flight firsthand with some help from alumni.
Pilots in the Civil Air Patrol, some of whom graduated from ECU, let students take the controls on guided flights from Pitt-Greenville Airport one weekend in November.
The Civil Air Patrol is an official auxiliary of the U.S. Air Force, staffed by civilian volunteers who assist with search and rescue missions, natural disaster relief and damage assessment, and more. The CAP also works to develop youth and educate citizens about air and space power. Because CAP pilots are volunteers, they often host incentive flights for the Air Force to save costs.
Twenty-two cadets from ROTC Detachment 600 at ECU and also Detachment 595 at North Carolina State University flew with three active duty Air Force pilots and two retired Air Force officers who also volunteer as civilian pilots in the CAP.
“They get to feel what it’s like to fly a plane and listen to air traffic control; they get a glimpse into the world of aviation,” said Air Force Col. (Ret.) Thomas Shubert ’74. “The mission objective for the flights was to enhance the Air Force ROTC cadets’ knowledge of aviation, discuss opportunities in the Air Force, and establish mentorship with participating aircrew.”
“This was an amazing experience and made me question why I had not considered a career as a pilot,” said Brittany Talbot, a senior from Garner, NC majoring in public health.
Talbot said she enjoyed getting to talk to other Air Force personnel and ECU alumni.
“It was amazing to be able to ‘pick their brains’ if you will about their experiences in the Air Force. As a prospective officer candidate, it made me even more excited to start my career,” she said. “I learned that just because you are given one job in the Air Force that doesn’t stop the endless possibilities that continue after you get out. One of the officers had just gotten out and is now pursuing a career in the medical field, which is my ultimate goal. From this experience I was about to get his information in hopes that he could give me tips in the future that would help me reach that goal.”
The look on the students’ faces said it all, according to Shubert. “It’s all about lighting a spark and showing them what it means to fly. We were able to expose them to things they normally wouldn’t be. And the alumni got a chance to be involved with students. You can’t put a price tag on this experience.”
Afterward, Shubert hosted a dinner for the cadets at Parker’s Barbecue.
By Jackie Drake