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Tennessee cadets tour air station, USS Shoup

This story by Tony Popp
NAS Whidbey Public Affairs
Thursday, June 18, 2009

They came from the “Gateway of the Smokies,” the famous mountains near their hometown of Newport, Tenn. For some, they had never been on a plane, let alone out of state.

Twenty-six Naval Junior Reserve Officers Training Corps cadets from Cocke County High School and seven adult chaperons got the opportunity to catch a military hop to NAS Whidbey Island June 8 for a four-day stay in the Pacific Northwest.

“They sold a lot of candy bars and did fund-raising to get here,” said their Naval Science Instructor retired Marine Lt. Col. William Ivory.

Representing 9th through 12th grades, the cadets were given a tour of Search and Rescue’s MH-60S Knighthawk helicopter. They sat in the pilot and co-pilot seats, and learned about rescue equipment aboard from a SAR naval aircrewman.

At Aviation Survival Training Center, they got a brief lesson on the effects of hypoxia while checking out the ejection seat trainer, altitude pressure chamber and water survival contraptions to teach aircrew how to stay alive if ever they crash at sea.

At VAQ-137, some tried on full flight gear and helmets and all got a peek inside the cockpit of an EA-6B Prowler. Air Traffic Control showed them on the busy radar room, and a bird’s eye view of the airfield from the 160-foot tower.

“Being allowed to see all of this is exciting,” said Erika Fullington, the NJROTC’s commanding officer and senior class of 2010. She plans on going to college after high school for something in the medical field.

The unit’s Operations Officer high school junior Seth Carmichael is aiming for the Air Force Academy. “I want to major in aerospace engineering,” he said. “My uncle is an Army vet from Desert Storm and my grandfather retired from the Air Force.

While staying at Barracks 5, the cadets said Admiral Nimitz Hall kept them well fed and they appreciated the great service.

Naval Station Everett Public Affairs also arranged for them to tour the Arleigh Burke class Aegis guided missile destroyer USS Shoup (DDG 86).

Like a proud “dad,” retired Senior Chief Navy Career Counselor and NJROTC instructor Mark Boesch boasted about the accomplishments of his cadets. “There are 632 Navy ROTC’s in the nation, and the Navy League (of the United States) chose us as number six in the nation in drill, academics and physical fitness. We also finished number one out of 19 in the state for third year in a row.”

Coincidentally, Boesch’s nephew Aviation Boatswain’s Mate (Equipment) 1st Class Kortney Boesch came on the tour to spend the day with his uncle. Kortney works at NAS Operations Facilities Division.

Before leaving, Fullington accepted a framed picture showing NAS Whidbey Island aircraft staged in front of the Operations building for them to hang in their school spaces back in Tennessee.

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