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380AEW Article

Shaping the future: 380 AEW Airmen mentor future military leaders

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Marjorie A. Bowlden
  • 380th Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs

Sir Joshua Reynolds, 18th century English painter, once wrote, “The young mind is pliable and imitates, but in more advanced states grows rigid and must be warmed and softened before it will receive a deep impression.”


Much like the quote above, trainees, cadets and even young Airmen can be influenced early in their careers. During this time, leaders can shape their attitudes and thus prepare the next generation for when they pass the torch of leadership.


Deployed Airmen of the 380th Air Expeditionary Wing recently hosted 20 U.S. Air Force Academy cadets for exactly this reason- to give them perspective on the deployed mission and the role that each Airman must play.


“We’re learning all of this military theory [at the Academy],” said Cadet 2nd Class Noah White. “Now we get to come out here to see the actual point of application.”


This is not an unusual occurrence; every cadet embeds with a wing as a rising junior, said Cadet 2nd Class Leo Tanja. However, some are able to volunteer to come to the U.S. Air Forces Central Command area of responsibility to see firsthand how airpower is being used in the fight against ISIS.


Their time in southwest Asia started with the Combined Air Operations Center at Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar. From there, they transitioned to the 380th Air Expeditionary Wing, where cadets embedded with Airmen across the installation and gained hands-on experience with some career fields that they had not encountered before.


“People have been really receptive to us being out here and trying to learn their jobs,” said Tanja.  “Everyone here seems to have a good attitude and have really been welcoming us into their shops.”


One of the most surprising things about being a part of the “real” Air Force was encountering so many enlisted personnel, said Domenico Vacanti. Most of their trainers at the Academy were officers, so encountering so many enlisted members was a bit daunting for some cadets.


“Here, you realize that it’s important to be squared away when you become an officer,” said Vacanti. “Because when you come out here, you see that the ‘big Air Force’ is mostly made up of enlisted folks. It’s not as common to see a captain or major just walking around on base.”


Being immersed in a deployed wing is a far cry from the constant training environment that cadets experience at the Academy, said White. However, this experience could be key to how they lead as future Air Force officers.


“There were some shops that we’ve been through here that I didn’t want to be an officer in, and maybe even coming out of that day I still knew I didn’t want to work in that field, but that doesn’t mean that the day was a waste to me,” said White. “An officer is supposed to be a big picture thinker. If I ever have to work with any other shop, at least now I understand better what they do.”