Sarasota, Fla. -
On 13 June 2017, nine cadets and senior member 1st Lt. Todd Sullivan from the SRQ Composite Squadron of Civil Air Patrol (CAP) joined other members from the Florida Wing to experience a three-hour orientation ride on a KC-135 refueling aircraft. The mission included special recognition of a retiring pilot.
1st Lt. Todd Sullivan described the experience as, ďAwesome, incredible. The respect and honor was amazing for the retiring pilot.Ē
At sunrise, members loaded onto a bus that delivered them to a briefing room at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, Florida, where cadets listened to a flight plan brief of the two crews. After going through a TSA checkpoint, members received assignments for one of two planes that would participate in the exercise.
Once on the plane, it became clear why everyone received earplugs. The sound of the engines was deafening.
Shortly after takeoff, the plane entered the clouds and the ground disappeared from view. The boom operator walked around and explained we would be refueling a C-17 cargo plane and that it would look even bigger through the boom operatorís window, stationed at the aft of the airplane.
The cadets received permission to walk around the plane and everyone got a chance to lie down next to the boom operator while she maneuvered the boom.
This was one of the pilotís final flights so he received a traditional ceremony: a fountain under the plane, called a bird bath, and fire trucks making an arc over the plane as the pilot taxied. The pilotís wife was the last person to marshal him while commissioned.
CAPís cadet program introduces young people, from ages 12 through 21, to aviation. Cadets progress at their own pace through a 16-step program including aerospace education, leadership training, physical fitness and moral leadership. Cadets compete for academic scholarships to further their studies in fields such as engineering, science, aircraft mechanics, aerospace medicine, meteorology, and many others. Those cadets who earn cadet officer status may enter the Air Force as an E3 (airman first class) rather than an E1 (airman basic).
Based at the Sarasota/Bradenton International Airport, the SRQ Composite Squadron is one of more than 1,700 Civil Air Patrol squadrons across the nation. The SRQ Composite Squadron includes 101 members: 58 senior members and 43 cadets. Members put general aviation to its best use, dedicated to saving lives, flying counter-drug missions, participating in homeland security efforts, providing disaster relief, advancing young people, and supporting Americaís educators. For information about the SRQ Composite Squadron of CAP, visit http://fl044.flwg.us