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Youth learn about military aviation careers

Lt. Col. Jeff Harrison, a Kentucky Air Guard C-130 pilot, discusses the operation of aircraft engines June 15, 2012, with middle and high school students attending the Organization of Black Aerospace Professionals Summer Aviation Career Education Academy at the Kentucky Air National Guard base in Louisville, Ky. The program’s mission is to stimulate youngsters’ interest in the aerospace community. (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Phil Speck)

Lt. Col. Jeff Harrison, a Kentucky Air Guard C-130 pilot, discusses the operation of aircraft engines June 15, 2012, with middle and high school students attending the Organization of Black Aerospace Professionals Summer Aviation Career Education Academy at the Kentucky Air National Guard base in Louisville, Ky. The program’s mission is to stimulate youngsters’ interest in the aerospace community. (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Phil Speck)

Local middle and high school students board a 123rd Airlift Wing C-130 prior to an orientation flight from the Kentucky Air National Guard Base in Louisville, Ky., on June 15.  The students were participating in an Organization of Black Aerospace Professionals aviation camp designed to educate young minds about the world of aviation. (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Phil Speck)

Local middle and high school students board a 123rd Airlift Wing C-130 prior to an orientation flight from the Kentucky Air National Guard Base in Louisville, Ky., on June 15. The students were participating in an Organization of Black Aerospace Professionals aviation camp designed to educate young minds about the world of aviation. (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Phil Speck)

KENTUCKY AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- More than 50 Louisville-area youth spent June 15 visiting the 123rd Airlift Wing to learn about career opportunities in military aviation and the Kentucky National Guard.

The day's events, which included orientation flights on a Kentucky Air Guard C-130 transport plane and static tours of a Kentucky Army Guard Blackhawk helicopter, were the culmination of a week-long Summer Aviation Career Education Academy held by the Organization of Black Aerospace Professionals.

"The mission is to educate, proliferate and stimulate interest in the aerospace community," explained Lt. Col. Jeff Harrison, an African-American C-130 pilot in the Kentucky Air Guard and member of OBAP. He also flies 757s for United Parcel Service, an academy sponsor.

The camp exposed the students, who ranged in age from 6th-graders to high school seniors, to many aviation opportunities, Harrison said. Earlier in the week, the students trained in a flight simulator at UPS, visited the air traffic control tower at Louisville International Airport and logged flying time at Bowman Field that can be applied toward a private pilots' license.

The visit to the Kentucky Air Guard began with the students' being welcomed by Kentucky's adjutant general, Maj. Gen. Edward. W. Tonini, who encouraged them to consider careers in the Kentucky National Guard. Next, they received briefings on aircrew flight equipment and aircraft safety before touring the 123rd Special Tactics Squadron and boarding a C-130 for a local training sortie.

One student, Adam Ackermann, said he's been participating in the program for the past three summers and credits the camp with instilling a love of aviation.

"I got into this camp three years ago, and that really made me want to be a pilot," Ackermann said. "I want to fly the C-130, and it makes me more interested every year because there is always something different to learn about."

The Kentucky National Guard has supported the aviation camp for 15 years, Harrison said. It was founded by Larry Parker, a UPS management captain; Ray Thomas, a UPS captain and former Kentucky Air Guardsman; and Keith Buckner, a Federal Aviation Administration air traffic controller.

The Kentucky Air Guard's Col. Ken Dale, 123rd Maintenance Group commander, was instrumental in forging the partnership with the Guard, Harrison said.

OBAP, formed in 1976, is a non-profit organization that "shows young people the exciting potential available in aviation," he said. In addition to the ACE aviation camp, OBAP offers scholarships, aviation education programs and flight training instruction.
"It's a very systemic approach, going from cradle to career," Harrison said.