EAST GRANBY, Conn. -- The Connecticut Air National Guard’s 103rd Airlift Wing welcomed cadets from local Civil Air Patrol units for a tour of Bradley Air National Guard Base on Aug. 13, 2021.
Cadets from the Connecticut Wing’s Danielson and Plainville squadrons got an up-close look at C-130H aircraft, the engines that power them, and learned about the 103rd Airlift Wing’s mission.
“I have to say this is one of those rare and unique opportunities that only come so often in a lifetime, if ever,” said Barbara Cramer, Danielson Squadron deputy commander. “These children are so appreciative—I know our rising cadets are having the best day ever getting hands-on with some of these incredible aircraft.”
As an auxiliary of the United States Air Force, Civil Air Patrol’s citizen volunteers perform several real-world missions, including inland search and rescue, disaster relief and damage assessment, and aerial reconnaissance for homeland security.
According to their website, “Civil Air Patrol’s cadet program transforms youth into dynamic Americans and aerospace leaders through a curriculum that focuses on leadership, aerospace, fitness and character. As cadets participate in these four elements, they advance through a series of achievements, earning honors and increased responsibilities along the way.”
Seeing the Connecticut Air National Guard’s work up close gives the cadets a broader perspective of the Air Force mission, said Cramer.
“You can imagine these types of things and see them on TV--it just doesn’t compare to when you’re here,” said Cramer. “Everything is bigger, it’s more exciting, they have questions, and they’ve had their questions answered by those who know first-hand how to fly them, how to work with their engines. I’m just really happy that we were able to come here and we’re really grateful.”
Experiences like this base tour can spark an interest that the cadets may decide to pursue in the future, said 1st Lt. Alexandra Pagoni, 118th Airlift Squadron pilot.
“A lot of the kids have expressed how excited they are and that this is a dream come true for them,” said Pagoni. “Maybe this could be something that inspires one of them or a group of them to pursue a job in aviation, whether it be a pilot, navigator, flight engineer, or loadmaster. We’re teaching them about the jobs that are out there and I hope everyone comes away with a goal, a dream, or learning more about something they didn’t know before.”
These dreams can seem closer to reality by learning from Airmen who followed similar passions to where they are today, said Cramer.
“They’re talking to people who were once children just like them—some of them even went through the Civil Air Patrol program,” said Cramer. “Little kids sometimes have big dreams, they nurture them, they grow up, they find an avenue to follow and here they are. Now those people are teaching other young children.”
Relationships like the one with Civil Air Patrol’s Connecticut Wing are key to connecting the 103rd with the state it serves, said Pagoni.
“I think it’s really important to establish those relationships with the community—bring them in, show them what we do and what we work on,” said Pagoni. “That way they have a better understanding of what we’re doing when they see us out there flying the airplane.”