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The 33rd reaches out while flying by

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Amber Litteral
  • 33rd Fighter Wing

It’s not often that a crowd can experience the roar of an F-35A Lightning II aircraft just overhead, but visitors at TIAA stadium and the surrounding area heard just that.


Members from the 33rd Fighter Wing visited Jacksonville, Fla., Dec. 11-13, participating in local outreach events and coordinating a two-ship flyover at the Jacksonville Jaguars football game on Sunday, Dec. 13th.


Opportunities like these allow the military members of the community to reach out, give back, and help support the communities we live in,” said 2nd Lt. Nicholas Black, 58th Fighter Squadron pilot select


Starting off the trip in Jacksonville, the 33rd FW participated in both in-person and virtual briefs for local high schools and organizations that talked on U.S. Air Force commissioning avenues and aviation career opportunities. 


Many people think there's a single path into the Air Force, and it's not true,” said 2nd Lt. Esteban Da Cruz, Southeast Region gold bar admissions advisor. “Doing these community outreach events allows us to show communities what the Air Force does, what they can do in the Air Force, and how they can get started.”


Members of the 33rd FW and a visiting gold bar recruiter were able to elaborate on each commissioning source, giving students in the Jacksonville area a better perspective on joining the Air Force.


“Most of the time, people just need to know what is available to them and how they can take the first step,” said Da Cruz. “Through these presentations, we do precisely that. We tell them what’s available with the Air Force, and we tell them how they can get started.”


There are three main paths to commissioning in the U.S. Air Force: graduating from the United States Air Force Academy, completing an Air Force Reserve Officer Training Corps program at a college or university while finishing a bachelor’s degree, or attending Officer Training School after completing a bachelor’s degree as a civilian or enlisted member.


“​There are endless avenues you can take after commissioning and after your time as an officer,” said Da Cruz. “Every day, I hear about what other officers have done either in the Air Force or outside it. Some take their experience and become successful in the civilian world; others end up becoming great leaders in our organizations, and some stay in and impact change at the highest level.”


After participating in the outreach event Friday, the 33rd FW focused their energy on preparing for a flyover on Sunday, which showcased a two-ship formation of 33rd FW F-35A Lightning II aircraft before the game with support from the 117th Air Refueling Wing from the Alabama Air National Guard. 


“This flyover takes coordination with tankers, Federal Aviation Administration controllers and the Jacksonville Jaguars,” said Lt. Col John Easton, 58th Fighter Squadron director of operations. “Dozens of hours of work for a 5-8 seconds flyover over the stadium, but well worth it for the training it provides and demonstration of air power.” 


During the fourth quarter of the game, the 33rd FW and 117th ARW were recognized for their support during the flyover while standing alongside five AFROTC scholarship recipients who were also recognized. 


“What makes our Air Force great is the combination of gifted and talented young men and women who are willing to dedicate themselves to our Air Force,” said Black. “It is through our future generations that our Air Force will remain the greatest.”


These individuals, Sarah Barksdale, David Burns, Ciana Cilenti, Ciara Littlejohn and Christian Malaniak, will go on to pursue a commission in the U.S. Air Force, reflecting one of the primary goals of the community outreach, motivating and cultivating the next generation of Air Force officers.


“We are charged to defend and serve our nation and its citizens,” said Easton. “Outreach like this helps to show those we serve who we are as an organization and as individuals, helping them gain confidence in our worldwide efforts.”