Tours give outsiders insight to operations

Capt. Kathryn Gaetke, 523 Fighter Squadron pilot, gave the Girls Town USA base tour a second chance to visit the flight simulators and try their skills at the controls. The tour gave the girls a glimpse of Cannon’s mission.

Airman 1st Class Thomas Trower

Some children take field trips to fire and police stations with their school or another organization. These trips give them opportunities to see real people doing their everyday job. Cannon has a base tour program available to organizations that provides a glimpse of the Air Force mission and how it is accomplished every day.
A group of girls from Girls Town USA in Whiteface, Texas took this opportunity to visit the base and gain ideas for possible future Air Force careers.
Several areas of interest for the girls were on the agenda for their base tour, starting with the flight simulators and ending with a visit at the 523rd Fighter Squadron.
When the group arrived at the flight simulators, they were greeted by Boeing staff members who operate the equipment. After a brief walk-through of the facilities, they were able to observe a 522nd Fighter Squadron pilot training in the simulator. The girls then headed for the Explosive Ordnance Disposal unit.
Staff Sgt. Darryl Wilcken, EOD operations, showed several different types of explosive hazards currently seen in Iraq. After a brief video of how to clear the Melrose Bombing Range of unexploded training ordnance, Airmen demonstrated some of the equipment used in their job. Among these were the X-ray camera and one of their robots.
After lunch at the Pecos Train Dining Facility where the girls got to talk with Airmen and learn about their jobs, they visited the air traffic controllers.
During the quick stop to visit the Radar Approach Control (RAPCON) facility, the control tower buzzed them in and invited the tour to the top of the tower. At RAPCON, the girls could see how all aircraft, civilian or military, in Cannon’s airspace kept in touch with the base. In the tower, they saw the length of the runway and a few jets taking off and landing.
The final scheduled stop of the day was at the 523 FS. Capt. Kathryn Gaetke, 523 FS pilot, gave a quick demonstration of the abilities of the F-16 Fighting Falcon and an overview of the 523 FS. A walk down the hall landed them at the life support section, where the girls were shown how the G-suit inflates to allow pilots to fly at higher speeds, and how the pilots fly with night vision equipment.
When Captain Gaetke heard how the girls were not able to fly earlier in the day, she volunteered to take them back over to the simulator and give them all a chance to fly. The captain activated both 523 FS simulators and gave the girls one-on-one direction on how to fly and perform a couple of aerobatic maneuvers.
Carla Jones, the house-parent for the group of girls, expressed appreciation for the tour facilitators and could not say enough about the experience.
“During the tour I heard many of the girls commenting on how they loved the trip.”
One girl said, “This is the funnest trip I’ve ever taken – ever.” Another said that the tour literally changed her life and her thoughts about what she could do with it.
The 27th Fighter Wing Public Affairs office coordinates and gives many tours throughout the year. The tours are geared to large groups of people high-school age or above, in order to keep their interest.