JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO, Texas –
Hundreds of young men and women from high schools throughout Texas watched with keen interest as nearly 700 Airmen completed the initial phase of their Air Force career, graduating from basic military training at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland the morning of Nov. 3.
Harboring similar aspirations as the Air Force’s most recent BMT graduates, the students, representing junior ROTC programs in Texas, enjoyed an eventful day, first at JBSA-Lackland for BMT graduation, then at the JBSA-Lackland Kelly Field Annex, where they experienced the essence of the Air Force mission during a rehearsal for the 2017 JBSA Air Show and Open House.
“The main purpose of the JROTC cadets’ visit is to allow them to have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to attend our fantastic event that is really going to be over the top,” said Lori Phipps, 802nd Force Support Squadron school liaison officer at JBSA-Lackland. “As with any interactions, this is a learning experience for these kids. It extends beyond their everyday classroom experiences into a real-world live interactive environment where they see their science, technology, engineering and math come together.”
The long weekend – which included the arrival of some JROTC units for the public air show Nov. 4-5 – actually began Nov. 2, when members of the F-35 Heritage Team, one of the air show performers, visited cadets at Judson High School in San Antonio. Members of the Air Force Thunderbirds, the air show headliners, paid a visit to JROTC cadets at Clark and Jay high schools in San Antonio Nov. 3.
Following BMT graduation, cadets from five high schools, including Randolph High School at JBSA-Randolph, attended mentoring sessions with NCOs and senior NCOs representing diverse career fields.
“The BMT graduation is an opportunity for the students to witness our history and traditions,” said Master Sgt. Joseph Dole, 331st Training Squadron military training instructor. “The mentoring sessions solidify that with our NCOs’ and senior NCOs’ wide range of experiences.”
Seeing the BMT graduation, which was also attended by graduates’ family members and friends from all over the country, made a huge impression on the JROTC cadets.
“Seeing this ceremony gives me insight into what will happen once I experience basic training,” said Alexis Mazur, a 17-year-old senior at Randolph High School who serves as the unit’s commander and intends to pursue an Air Force career. “I believe it will spark the interest of some of the cadets because it all looks so cool.”
Samuel Thompson, a 14-year-old freshman in the Randolph High School JROTC program whose father served in the Army, said the graduation familiarized him with the Air Force.
“It showed how disciplined they are and how hard they had to work to get to this point,” he said. “It showed they have a lot of courage and endurance.”
The ceremony demonstrated the graduates’ commitment to their country, said retired Air Force Col. James Costey, Randolph High School JROTC senior aerospace science instructor.
“It shows what service is all about,” he said. “When the cadets see the air show rehearsal, they’ll see airpower at its best.”
Phipps, whose office was engaged by air show planning team to spearhead the JROTC cadets’ special day, said she was expecting between 4,000 and 5,000 cadets by the end of air show weekend. They represent Air Force, Army, Navy and Marine Corps JROTC units.
“JROTC is a leadership program that teaches high school students character education, responsibility, student achievement and the value of citizenship,” she said. “Their visit here gives them an opportunity to immerse themselves in a military culture that lives by strong core values, leads by example and provides positive role models for them.”
For more information about the 2017 JBSA Air Show and Open House, go to www.jbsaairshow.com. You can also get all the latest updates, news and more by following JBSA on Facebook (JointBaseSanAntonio) and Twitter (@JBSA_Official).