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Columbus AFB instructor pilots connect with Virginia Tech AFROTC cadets

Capt. Andrew Barstow, 37th Flying Training Squadron assistant chief of training, and Cesar Ibarra Jr., Virginia Tech Air Force ROTC Detachment 875 cadet, pose for a photo before a sortie in a T-6 Texan II, at Roanoke Blacksburg Regional Woodrum Field, Virginia. In addition to working with instructor pilots, cadets were exposed to static displays, major weapons system briefs, and Q-and-A sessions with a team of aircrew flight equipment personnel and the 14th Medical Group flight surgeon from Columbus Air Force Base, Mississippi. (Courtesy photo)

Capt. Andrew Barstow, 37th Flying Training Squadron assistant chief of training, and Cesar Ibarra Jr., Virginia Tech Air Force ROTC Detachment 875 cadet, pose for a photo before a sortie in a T-6 Texan II, at Roanoke Blacksburg Regional Woodrum Field, Va. In addition to working with instructor pilots, cadets were exposed to static displays, major weapons system briefs, and Q-and-A sessions with a team of aircrew flight equipment personnel and the 14th Medical Group flight surgeon from Columbus Air Force Base, Miss. (Courtesy photo)

Virginia Tech Air Force ROTC Detachment 875 cadets chat with instructor pilots from the 37th and 48th Flying Training Squadrons from Columbus Air Force Base, Mississippi, Feb. 8, 2019, in Blacksburg, Virginia. The IPs hosted a social in the dorms, where cadets could ask questions about pilot life and their experiences. (Courtesy photo)

Virginia Tech Air Force ROTC Detachment 875 cadets chat with instructor pilots from the 37th and 48th Flying Training Squadrons from Columbus Air Force Base, Miss., Feb. 8, 2019, in Blacksburg, Va. The IPs hosted a social in the dorms, where cadets could ask questions about pilot life and their experiences. (Courtesy photo)

A four-ship formation of T-6 Texan IIs fly over Roanoke Blacksburg Regional Woodrum Field, Virginia. Instructor pilots from the 37th and 48th Flying Training Squadrons at Columbus Air Force Base, Mississippi worked with cadets from the Virginia Tech AF’s ROTC program Feb. 8-11. (Courtesy photo)

A four-ship formation of T-6 Texan IIs fly over Roanoke Blacksburg Regional Woodrum Field, Va. Instructor pilots from the 37th and 48th Flying Training Squadrons at Columbus Air Force Base, Miss. worked with cadets from the Virginia Tech Air Force ROTC program Feb. 8-11, 2019. (Courtesy photo)

COLUMBUS AIR FORCE BASE, Miss. (AFNS) -- It’s not everyday cadets are given the opportunity to work closely with U.S. Air Force pilots; however, the Virginia Tech Air Force ROTC Detachment 875 was given the chance when instructor pilots from the 37th and 48th Flying Training Squadrons visited the university Feb. 8-11.

Nine instructor pilots, five T-6 Texan IIs, a T-1A Jayhawk, aircrew flight equipment personnel and the 14th Medical Group flight surgeon recently returned from a TDY to Roanoke Blacksburg Regional Woodrum Field, Virginia, where they connected with cadets from the Virginia Tech Air Force ROTC program.

The trip was an effort to boost rated career interest, but also added continuation training for Columbus AFB’s IPs. The pilots also helped meet Air Education and Training Command’s vision of “Recruit Next” by recruiting, training, and educating Air Force ROTC cadets on Air Force flying missions, primarily the Specialized Undergraduate Pilot Training mission.

“This is an opportunity for them to see what the rated career fields are all about,” said Capt. Andrew Barstow, 37th FTS assistant chief of training. “It’s a pretty cool opportunity, not just the nature of it, but the impact as well.”

Barstow also said the experience gives cadets a better realization of what they’re getting into, and will help them make more informed decisions about their future Air Force careers.

Before the pilots began flying, they hosted a social Feb. 8, in the dorms so cadets could get to know the IPs better by asking questions about their experiences and what it’s like to be a pilot.

“Having Columbus Air Force Base come in and having guys who are current instructor pilots now gives relevancy, excitement and motivation,” said Lt. Col. Barry Burton, Virginia Tech Air Force ROTC Det. 875 commander. “It’s a hands-on actual view of what it’s like from a pilot’s perspective on the lifestyle and experience.”

Burton said cadets get excited and motivated when they’re able to engage with pilots via video-conference, however, “having pilots on the ground takes it to a much higher level.”

To make the most out of their visit, the T-1A IPs were also able to meet with North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University Det. 605 cadets at Greensboro, North Carolina.

Throughout the weekend, the 28 cadets were briefed and experienced the capabilities of the T-1A and T-6 aircraft.

“My favorite part of this experience was getting the opportunity to not only fly in the T-6, but get to learn and ask questions from the pilots,” said Olivia Ellis, Virginia Tech Air Force ROTC Det. 875 cadet. “This opportunity made me feel grateful for the opportunities the Air Force offers cadets and I think opportunities like this should be available to more cadets.”

Capt. Max Adler, 41st FTS check pilot, Maj. Scott Meskimen, 14th Operations Group executive officer, and Barstow were part of the IP group and are Virginia Tech alumni. This visit provided an opportunity to return to their alma mater and show new cadets some aspects of a pilot’s life.

“It’s a very amazing experience,” Barstow said. “I’m shaking hands with cadets and I’m walking through the same hallways I did as an ROTC cadet. It’s kind of surreal when I think about it. We got so much support to help us make it happen, so I’m really appreciative and excited. I feel like I’m giving back to the guys that help me get to this position here.”