FLORENCE, S.C. – Six Air Force JROTC members from Wilson High School got to see the Pee Dee from the air Thursday.
The program was made possible by the Civil Air Patrol at the Florence Regional Airport.
“This is something that since the sequester back in 2011, funding has been very, very tight, and we have not had the money to provide kids with this tremendous STEM technology,” Lt. Col. Johnny Guest said. “Recently we’ve received funding, and those flights have been turned back on again.”
This is the first time since 2011 that Wilson JROTC cadets have been able to participate in the program.
Guest chose six students based on merit, such as good grades and behavior. Each student flew in a Cessna, two at a time, all the way to Marion County, and they even got a chance to take the controls once in the air.
For two cadets, Thursday was the first time they had been in a plane.
Sammy King, a sophomore at Wilson, comes from a strong military family and hopes to continue that tradition with his career.
“It’s a great opportunity for me to learn how to fly, and I hope that it will help towards my career,” he said. “So far ROTC has helped me and motivated me into a military environment, and I really feel that I need to serve my country.”
Kylie Palmatier also plans on pursuing a military career and is interested in joining the Air Force. She admitted that she was a little nervous about the flight, but mostly excited.
“My expectation is that it’s going to be great,” she said. “And I’ll get to see the ground from a different perspective.”
Guest hopes that giving cadets the chance to fly will open their eyes to a possible future in aviation.
“People don’t think about aviation as a career,” he said. “It’s a tremendous career. Maybe some of these kids will be introduced to something they thought they never could pursue.”
He says watching his cadets go up in the plane, especially if they’ve never been before, was something he truly enjoyed.
“This is what I love doing the most,” Guest said. “In the classroom is one thing, but it’s outside of the classroom. It’s these opportunities.”