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NEWS | Oct. 29, 2019

Reserve Citizen Airmen fly to Corpus Christi to welcome new pilot to the fold

By Debbie Gildea and 412th Test Wing Public Affairs 340th Flying Training Group Public Affairs

At about three feet tall, Alessandra "Ale" Alaniz might be the shortest pilot ever, but what she lacks in stature, she makes up for in charisma.

Ale, a Driscoll Children's Hospital patient in Corpus Christi, Texas, celebrated the Air Force's birthday this year with some special Laughlin Air Force Base, Texas, visitors. On hand to welcome her to the pilot corps were 96th Flying Training Squadron instructor pilots Maj. Wade Dahlgren and Lt. Col. Doug Hayes, who flew to Corpus Sept. 18 with 86th Flying Training Squadron regular Air Force teammates Capt. Anthony Giebelhaus and Capt. Roland Kern.

Ale is the 100th child selected to participate in the Naval Air Station Corpus Christi Pilot for A Day program.

A former Naval Air Station Corpus Christi instructor pilot, Dahlgren was a Pilot For A Day coordinator when assigned at NAS Corpus Christi, so when the opportunity presented itself to celebrate another youngster's initiation into the program, he and Hayes were all in.

The Laughlin Air Force Base teams kicked off Ale's special day with a T-1 Jayhawk two-ship flyover, and then escorted her and her family on a tour of the Jayhawk, presented her with pilot accouterments (hat and morale shirt courtesy of the 96th FTS booster club), and joined her and her family on a tour of the pilot training facilities.

The ability to bring such visible joy to children with serious medical conditions through the Pilot for a Day program has been a motivator for the 96th FTS aviators. So much so, in fact, that they are working to implement the program at Laughlin.

"We're working hard with some old buddies that are in leadership positions at NAS Corpus Christi to make sure we stay involved," Dahlgren said. "The kids love it and the smiles you get last a lifetime."