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Capt. Tim Nauroth, a 14th Fighter Squadron pilot, right, helps Air Force Academy cadet Zachary Carey strap into an F-16 egress trainer Monday at Misawa Air Base, Japan. As part of a summer internship program, 17 academy cadets are visiting Misawa.
Capt. Tim Nauroth, a 14th Fighter Squadron pilot, right, helps Air Force Academy cadet Zachary Carey strap into an F-16 egress trainer Monday at Misawa Air Base, Japan. As part of a summer internship program, 17 academy cadets are visiting Misawa. (Jennifer H. Svan / S&S)
Capt. Tim Nauroth, a 14th Fighter Squadron pilot, right, helps Air Force Academy cadet Zachary Carey strap into an F-16 egress trainer Monday at Misawa Air Base, Japan. As part of a summer internship program, 17 academy cadets are visiting Misawa.
Capt. Tim Nauroth, a 14th Fighter Squadron pilot, right, helps Air Force Academy cadet Zachary Carey strap into an F-16 egress trainer Monday at Misawa Air Base, Japan. As part of a summer internship program, 17 academy cadets are visiting Misawa. (Jennifer H. Svan / S&S)
Cadet Justin Hauffe dangles from a parachute harness during life support training while fellow classmates and life support technician Senior Airman Heidi Janey watch.
Cadet Justin Hauffe dangles from a parachute harness during life support training while fellow classmates and life support technician Senior Airman Heidi Janey watch. (Jennifer H. Svan / S&S)
Cadet Stephen Kemp checks an inflatable vest during life support training.
Cadet Stephen Kemp checks an inflatable vest during life support training. (Jennifer Svan / S&S)

MISAWA AIR BASE, Japan — It’s a glimpse of what’s to come, and a group of Air Force Academy cadets spending three weeks of their summer here can’t wait.

The 17 cadets are at Misawa as part of Operation Air Force, the academy’s summer internship program that pairs future airmen with enlisted troops and officers at bases worldwide for mentoring and training.

“It’s to give them a little bit of operational experience, the bigger picture of what they’re going to get into … when they get a commission,” said 1st Lt. Robin Kamio, Operation Air Force coordinator for the 35th Fighter Wing.

Misawa is hosting about 45 cadets this summer during three sessions. The last group of rising academy seniors and juniors is due to arrive July 21.

The seniors, or first-class cadets, shadow company grade officers at Misawa in their preferred career field or designated Air Force Specialty Code for three weeks, while the second-class cadets spend half the program with an operations unit and the other half with a support unit to see how each contributes to the Air Force mission, officials said.

About 25 first lieutenants and captains at Misawa volunteered to work with the cadets throughout the summer, Kamio said, and every field grade officer on base is participating in hourlong mentoring sessions in which they’ll offer leadership tips, what the cadets can expect as Air Force second lieutenants and advice on lessons learned in the service.

In a briefing Monday afternoon with vice wing commander Col. Mike Bartley, the cadets discussed their military aspirations: medical school, civil engineering and intelligence were a few, but a majority said they wanted to be pilots.

Some of the young guns said Misawa was a choice summer internship assignment.

“It’s overseas, in Japan, something totally new, fighters,” said 21-year-old Justin Hauffe of Champaign, Ill.

Hauffe and a handful of his academy classmates spent Monday morning in an F-16 trainer practicing how to get out of the cockpit in an in-flight emergency and how to safely parachute to the ground after an ejection.

But probably more valuable for the cadets was quality time spent with some of the 14th Fighter Squadron pilots last week at squadron headquarters, making popcorn, lifting weights, meeting their wives and talking about life as an Air Force fighter pilot, said Stephen Kemp, 21, of Baltimore.

Among the words of wisdom: “Work hard and have fun,” said cadet Zachary Carey of Colorado Springs, Colo., who wants to fly either the F-16 or A-10.

Hauffe said he’s interested in the F-16 or flying helicopters — “Anything that I can keep getting an adrenaline rush in,” he said.

The cadets, who signed on at the academy after Sept. 11, 2001, aren’t intimidated by the prospect of combat missions over Iraq or elsewhere.

“It makes you more motivated,” said Chris McClintock, 22, of Phoenix. “It’s not a fantasy, maybe someday … no, look at the calendar.”

After spending time at Misawa, they’re even more gung ho: “I think we’re all really excited to see what’s ahead of us after four years at the academy,” Carey said, “and how cool that’s going to be.”

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Jennifer reports on the U.S. military from Kaiserslautern, Germany, where she writes about the Air Force, Army and DODEA schools. She’s had previous assignments for Stars and Stripes in Japan, reporting from Yokota and Misawa air bases. Before Stripes, she worked for daily newspapers in Wyoming and Colorado. She’s a graduate of the College of William and Mary in Virginia.
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