Aug. 13, 2012
This off-season, GoAirForceFalcons.com will keep you updated on how some of our players spent their summer. The series, "Flying with the Falcons", continues with Cherae Medina's summary of her Operation Air Force experience.
As a rising junior, I was able to experience the "real" Air Force through a summer program named Operation Air Force. I was one of a very few who were lucky enough to draw Hurlburt Field, Fla., and live in the AFSOC world for three weeks. AFSOC stands for Air Force Special Operations Command where the headquarters are at Hurlburt Field, Fla. This base carries multiple aircraft and I had the privilege to get an incentive ride in two of them. The first one was in a CV-22 Osprey and the second one was in a MI-17 Russian helicopter.
Before the ride on the Osprey, the crew went and put our gear together for my partner and me and handed us about five barf bags each. He told us there was a 70% chance we were going to throw up. Then he strapped us into a belt with a hook on the end of it and said that hook is what is going to keep us from falling into the bay. We grabbed the rest of our gear then walked out to one of the coolest looking aircraft I have ever seen. It had the body of a plane and helicopter all combined into one. After our hooks were strapped into the floor, the Osprey lifted off the ground like a helicopter, and took off like a normal plane with equivalent speeds and maneuvers. The back ramp we loaded onto the Osprey from never came back up and closed. We flew all around with it down along with a .55 cal machine gun sitting on the edge. This flight beat anything I've ever experienced. I sat on the edge of the ramp with the machine gun gripped in my hands and my feet dangling off over into the bay and along the coast. I felt like I owned the world. Also, lucky enough, I never had to use any of my barf bags and neither did my partner.
The next night, I had the privilege to ride in the MI-17 Russian helicopter. We flew around at night with night vision goggles and took part in a simulation for the training pilot and his crew. The windows in this aircraft were nonexistent and the ramp also came down when it was dark enough outside. I also had the opportunity to sit out on the edge and look out over the city at night time. It was an opportunity I will cherish for the rest of my life. Machine guns were on board and we flew to the range where we let off hundreds of rounds. The power behind the machine we were able to use can't be put in words. I just knew that I didn't want to be the enemy on the other end of that power. Everyone in my group had our cameras out the entire time because we knew this flight was a rare opportunity.
Besides the incentive rides, I was also able to job shadow different jobs such as Intelligence and the Office of Special Investigations. I was able to get different perspectives in the "real" Air Force as well. The daily life of an AFSOC Officer was very interesting to see, along with the interactions between enlisted personnel and officers. In the AFSOC world especially, physical fitness is extremely important to maintain, along with staying healthy and always being ready to be called for duty.
Engagement with Special Operations personnel was an amazing experience. Both of the crews I flew with had absolutely no fear in their eyes. They were some of the most confident people I've ever worked with and I now look up to them. I can't wait to be in the "real" Air Force and work alongside them. Ops Air Force will always be one of my most appreciated memories.