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Wolfhounds give JROTC cadets glimpse of future

Lt. Col. Bill Palmatier, 859th Special Operations Squadron director of operations, speaks to a group of cadets from the Baker Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps about the aviation career field at Duke Field, Florida, June 15, 2021. After the discussion, the cadets received a familiarizations flight aboard a C-146A Wolfhound aircraft. (U.S. Air Force photo by Michelle Gigante)

Lt. Col. Bill Palmatier, 859th Special Operations Squadron director of operations, discusses the C-146A mission with a group of cadets from Baker High School Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps at Duke Field, Florida, June 15, 2021. The 859th SOS invited the cadets to the base for an introduction to the aviation career field. (U.S. Air Force photo by Michelle Gigante)

DUKE FIELD, Fla. --

A group of cadets from the Baker High School Army Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps received a taste of life in the Air Force during a tour here June 15, 2021.

Citizen Air Commandos from the 859th Special Operations Squadron invited the cadets out to Duke Field for an introduction to a variety of aviation related career fields should they choose a career in the Air Force.

“Our goal is to identify a spark in these students,” “said Lt. Col. Bill Palmatier, 859th SOS director of operations and aircraft commander. “[We do that by] by getting them in the airplane and letting them see what we do and experiencing a day in the life of an Air Force crew member--be it as an enlisted member or as an officer. I think we achieved that today.”

Citizen Air Commandos work alongside active-duty members and contractors to ensure the Wolfhound crews are able to execute missions in austere environments around the globe on short notice. This was the first time the 859th SOS provided a familiarization flight on a C-146A Wolfhound in support of a high school level JROTC outreach.

“I saw a lot of what I wanted to see--a lot of smiles and I think they really appreciated it,” said Palmatier.

The JROTC cadets saw aerial views of DeFuniak Springs, Panama City Beach, Destin, and their high school during the 45 minute flight aboard the Wolfhound.

“I think it was a huge win for the cadets and for the 859th,” said Palmatier. “Hopefully, we can do more of this going forward so these future leaders have an idea of what the Air Force is like.”

While at Duke Field, the cadets learned about the 859th SOS mission, received an overview of the Air Force Reserve, and met several pilots and loadmasters.

“I really appreciate the crew letting us do this,” said Army Cadet Nate Nitzel with Baker High School Junior ROTC. “I love aviation. Anytime I am up in the air I feel a sense of freedom I don’t get anywhere else.”

Palmatier shared perks of the aviation career field with the cadets and encouraged them to reach out if they have interest in joining the Air Force or the AF Reserve.

“Working for the Air Force is such a rewarding career, there are so many things you can do, not only for yourself but for your country,” said Palmatier. “The Air Force is always looking for aspiring, talented people and I am happy to meet our nation's possible future aviators.”