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Louisville students flying high after C-130 orientation flight

Cadets from the Navy Junior ROTC program at Valley High School in Louisville, Ky., board a Kentucky Air National Guard C-130 on the flight line of the Kentucky Air Guard Base in Louisville, Ky., Dec. 14, 2011. The students flew to Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, where they toured the U.S. Air Force Museum. (Courtesy Photo)

Cadets from the Navy Junior ROTC program at Valley High School in Louisville, Ky., board a Kentucky Air National Guard C-130 on the flight line of the Kentucky Air Guard Base in Louisville, Ky., Dec. 14, 2011. The students flew to Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, where they toured the U.S. Air Force Museum. (Courtesy Photo)

KENTUCKY AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- Dana Brookings has always loved flying, but she never thought about becoming a pilot until a recent experience aboard a Kentucky Air National Guard C-130.

Brookings, a cadet in the Navy Junior ROTC program at Louisville's Valley High School, participated in an orientation flight on the venerable Hercules transport plane Dec. 14 and is now considering a career in aviation.

"I can honestly say that, when I saw how high above the ground we were and I could see nothing but clouds, my love of flying intensified," said Brookings, who holds the rank of cadet seaman apprentice. "I'd never considered being a pilot -- Air Force, Navy or otherwise -- until (that flight)."

The sortie was equally memorable for many of Brookings' classmates, about 70 of whom joined her on the orientation flight. Their day began at the Kentucky Air Guard Base with a unit mission briefing, followed by a question-and-answer session with pilots and loadmasters from the Louisville-based 165th Airlift Squadron.

The cadets then boarded the C-130 for a flight to Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, where they toured the U.S. Air Force Museum and immersed themselves in active-duty military culture before returning to Louisville via C-130 that afternoon.

Cadet Lt. Junior Grade Sabin Martinez said he enjoyed the museum tour, but he reserved his highest praise for the C-130 flight, which Martinez described as "amazing."

"It was my first time experiencing flight, and it was more than exhilarating," he recalled. "From the runway to liftoff to cruising altitude, every part put me in a sense of awe. Feeling the weight shift as we inclined into the air, the pressure flux in my ears, the sensitivity to every turn -- it was just something I would never have experienced without being in NJROTC and (having the Kentucky Air Guard's) help."

Cadet Seaman Apprentice William Lucas described the C-130 as "the coolest thing I think I've ever seen." A first-time flyer, Lucas initially feared getting sick, "but after we were up and going, I enjoyed it," he said.

"The coolest thing is when I got to look out the window, and we were over the clouds. I thought we would see grass or buildings, but no -- we were on top of the clouds!"

Cadet Seaman Apprentice Alisa Bolin was equally apprehensive before the flight, but her nervousness soon turned to exhilaration.

"This was my first time flying, and I enjoyed every minute of it," said Bolin, who hopes to serve in the Air Force or Air National Guard after graduation. "At first I thought I was going to be scared, but when the plane took off, I felt like I belonged in the air. I look forward to joining the Air Force even more now than I did before going on the trip."

The cadets' teacher, Navy Lt. Commander (retired) Mark Peters, expressed his appreciation to the men and women of the Kentucky Air National Guard for providing the opportunity.

"The flights up to and back from Wright-Patterson were exciting and highly educational," said Peters, Valley High School's senior naval science instructor. "The USAF Museum was outstanding training for the cadets, and the entire day was exceedingly successful. While there are a great many moving parts in any mission, it was all made possible by the 165th Airlift Squadron. It's hard to over-estimate the positive impact this will have on the cadets.

"Thanks to the 165th, the students have obtained a firm understanding of the role that airpower has in defense of the country, as well as a deeper appreciation of the contributions the Air Force has made to our nation."