EAST GRANBY, Conn. – Christine Libbey had seen C-130H Hercules aircraft flying over Connecticut and was familiar with the thunderous roar of the plane’s Rolls Royce T-56 engines. She had even been inside a C-130. But she had never flown on one and wondered what it would be like. Her curiosity was finally satisfied when she became a Flying Yankee for a day during a tour of Bradley Air National Guard Base hosted by the Connecticut Air National Guard recruiting team.
Libbey, a cadet colonel in Torrington High School Junior ROTC, and fellow cadets flew on a C-130 during a refueling mission with the 103rd Operations Group.
“It was really amazing to see,” Libbey said. “We’ve come here many times, but we’ve never been able to go on a flight. It was beautiful to be able to see the views and experience flying in a C-130.”
The cadets entered the cockpit and watched the aircrew execute a cargo airdrop.
Cadets also had an interactive walk-through of the 103rd Civil Engineer Squadron Fire Department and used a flight simulator to take the controls of a virtual C-130. They also saw how night-vision goggles work and learned about the Aircrew Flight Equipment career field.
“I think the Air National Guard is a good opportunity for some and is something that I am going to look into,” Libbey said.
A typical week in JROTC consists of leadership education, aerospace science lessons and physical training. Lt. Col. (Ret.) Charles Coulouras, JROTC senior aerospace science instructor at Torrington High School, said the tour gave students a realistic perspective of the curriculum.
“They were on top of the clouds, literally, and it was great,” said Coulouras who served in the Active Duty Air Force for eight years and in the Massachusetts Air National Guard for 20 years before becoming a JROTC instructor. “I think the cadets really got a lot out of it. It really put into action everything that we’ve been talking about. They were able to see what the Air Force and the Air National Guard are all about.”
Enrollment in Air Force JROTC programs has grown by more than 50 percent in the past 40 years. Though there is no commitment to join the military after participating in JROTC, cadets are more likely to join after graduating high school than students who are not enrolled in JROTC.