William Byrd Air Force JROTC cadets visit Langley AFB and Oceana Air Show

Members of the William Byrd High School Air Force JROTC pose for a group photo following their tour of Langley Air Force Base.

The William Byrd High School Air Force JROTC cadets, their instructors, and chaperones spent a recent weekend touring Langley Air Force Base, watching the NAS (Naval Air Station) Oceana Air Show, and camping at the Newport News Campground. Forty-two cadets were able to participate in the overnight trip.

“This year’s Corps is 75 strong (a 25 percent increase from last year) and includes cadets from all Roanoke County high schools,” said Lt. Col. Jay Thompson, the Senior Aerospace Science Instructor for the William Byrd JROTC. “This year’s instruction focuses on Survival and although we have not started the formal instructional portion of that, the cadets got a taste of roughing it on this trip.”

According to Col. Thompson, the cadets left early on Friday morning, September 15, and traveled directly to Langley Air Force Base to tour the facilities and received briefings and demonstrations on Life Support, Aircraft Maintenance, the Fire Department, and Security Forces.

“Survival instructors with the Aircrew Life Support section of the 1st Operations Support Squadron showed cadets survival gear that aircrew members carry and would use in case they had to parachute from their aircraft and survive until rescue came,” said Thompson.  “Several cadets donned parachute gear and virtual reality glasses and completed a simulated parachute landing from 3,000 feet.”

Enlisted mechanics and a maintenance officer in the 1st Aircraft Maintenance Squadron showed cadets an F-22 jet engine and explained their role in maintaining the Air Force’s combat capability on the advanced capability fighter.

On-duty base fire department personnel from the 633rd Civil Engineering Squadron gave the cadets a tour of the equipment and vehicles at the station and explained their readiness to respond to aircraft crashes or structural emergencies at facilities on base.  Cadets were allowed to climb up into the cab of several vehicles for a closer look.

The kennel master and several military working dog (MWD) handlers with the Military Working Dog kennels in the 633rd Security Forces Squadron briefed the cadets on the MWD dogs’ ability to detect explosive threats and apprehend/restrain non-compliant suspects. Several cadets got the chance to don protective “bite gear” suits and experience an apprehension by one of the German Shepherd MWDs.

The cadets had lunch at the Crossbow Dining Facility on base.

On both Friday and Saturday nights, the unit camped in tents at the Newport News Campground in near perfect weather.

“On Saturday, the group traveled to NAS Oceana to watch the air show which featured demonstrations of both civilian and military aircraft along with military and aviation-related vendor booths,” said Thompson.  “The air show concluded with an awesome demonstration by the US Navy’s aerial precision team, the Blue Angels.

“Langley AFB is one of the Air Force’s oldest facilities, having been established in 1916 (31 years before the USAF became a separate service),” explained Thompson.  “A notable flier from one of Langley’s flying squadrons was Eddie Rickenbacher, America’s Ace of Aces from World War I, who shot down 26 enemy aircraft and received the Medal of Honor, the military’s highest award.”

Cadet Jasmine Allinson, who serves as Corps Commander of the William Byrd Air Force JROTC this year, shared her impressions of the trip.

“We kicked off the trip by spending Friday afternoon at Langley Air Force Base,” said Allinson “There we toured the many different departments the Air Force has to offer. Through these tours, the other cadets and I had the opportunity to interact with some of the technology available to the Air Force, like a parachute simulator and night vision goggles. Some of the cadets were even able to be ‘attacked’ by a security forces dog.

“We also have many first-year cadets who are beginning to form an interest in a military career, so through this experience they were able to ask questions and gain knowledge on what it is like to work for the military,” she noted.

“After Langley, we headed up to the campsite for the night,” Allinson contined. “Once we arrived, everyone was quick to do what needed to be done before we lost daylight. There were cadets unloading the bus, pitching tents and some even began to gather firewood to start a fire. It was really cool to watching everyone come together to get the camp ready for the night.

“After everyone was settled in and dinner had been served I was able to talk with a group of cadets,” she said. “I learned that some had never been camping before and even more shockingly some had never had a s’more. So, of course, after hearing that, we made s’mores! I felt bad though because this poor girl’s first s’more was made with stale graham crackers.

“The following day we went to the air show,” said Allinson. “Here the cadets were broken into small groups and were given the chance to explore the grounds. There were vendors and aircraft everywhere. While there was plenty to keep you busy on the ground, they also had planes flying all day long. Some did bombing demonstrations, while others showed off their amazing flying skills.”

“I know the highlight for my group was being able to walk around in some of the air craft,” she said. “I personally loved being able to walk under the aircraft and look up into the bomb compartment. They were massive and full of wires and racks. It never quite clicked on how large the compartments were until I was able to stand at the bottom of one.”

The next trip for the WBHS cadets is a visit to the Virginia Military Institute campus in Lexington.