Top Junior ROTC cadets explore AF opportunities

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. -- More than 450 high school students from hundreds of Air Force ROTC units worldwide participated in the 2008 Air Force Junior ROTC Aerospace and Technology Honor Camps this summer. More than 100 Junior ROTC cadets completed the final two programs in Albuquerque, N.M., and Oklahoma City, Okla., July 31.

The elite program for the top half-percentile of Junior ROTC cadets showcases science, technology and engineering career opportunities in both the military and private industry. This year's eight camps were split evenly between Albuquerque and Oklahoma City over the last two months.

Maj. Elizabeth Fallon, camp coordinator for New Mexico, said more than 11,000 cadets applied for the camps this summer. Besides getting a senior instructor's endorsement, Major Fallon said cadets must have good grades and be active extracurricular activities.

"It's a very competitive program," she said. "The last person selected was less than one point higher than the non-selects."

Cadets like Melinda Duran from Henley High School in Oregon said the camp opened up her eyes to a totally different career track.

"I wasn't sure what to expect, but some of my friends that attended honor camps in the past said it was amazing," she said. "I was just planning on going to college, but now I'm looking seriously into going to either the Coast Guard or Air Force academy to serve on active duty."

The honor camps started in 2003 under the recommendation of former Secretary of the Air Force James Roche. The five-day course takes a group of approximately 55 high school juniors and seniors to either Kirtland Air Force Base, N.M., or Tinker Air Force Base, Okla., to explore some of the base's high-tech careers and speak with the Airmen who perform them.

Brig. Gen. Anita Gallentine, an Air Force Reserve mobilization assistant to the deputy chief of staff for Installations and Logistics at the Pentagon, shared her 31 years of experience while serving on active-duty, Air National Guard and Reserve duty positions.

"Be leaders," she told a group of 50 cadets attending the final camp at Albuquerque, N.M., July 30. "Don't give into peer pressure and do something that you might regret for the rest of your life. What you do now in your youth may affect your career opportunities in the future."

Cadets also had the opportunity to try some hands on science experiments while touring the campuses of either the Universities of New Mexico or University of Oklahoma.

University of New Mexico Professor George Brabson put students' physics and chemistry skills to the test during a rocket car construction contest. Cadets were tasked with building a car frame suitable for a soda bottle filled with hydrogen and oxygen gases. The rocket car that went the furthest without destroying itself was the winner.

Cadet Nabiha Saikh said the highlight of her experience in New Mexico was getting pilot lessons from a contracted pilot.

"I'm definitely considering an Air Force career," she said shortly after her orientation flight. "I want to become an Air Force translator and study Middle Eastern languages."