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Oshkosh Airshow A Win For Air Force Mentors

Photo of the crowd at the Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA) AirVenture Air Show July 26, 2021 in Oshkosh, Wi.,

Attendees at the Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA) AirVenture Air Show experience what is like to fly for the Air Force at Oshkosh, Wi., July 26, 2021. Air Force Recruiting Service Detachment 1 hosted two booths at the airshow designed to inform, influence, and inspire youth interested in aviation career opportunities with the U.S. Air Force. (Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Eric Cardenas).

Photo of the crowd at the Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA) AirVenture Air Show July 26, 2021 in Oshkosh, Wi.,

Maj. Kelly McNerney with Air Force Recruiting Service Detachment 1, instructs a student attending the Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA) AirVenture Air Show on the best practices for operating the flight simulator at Oshkosh, Wi., July 26, 2021. AFRS Detachment 1 hosted two booths at the airshow designed to inform, influence, and inspire youth interested in aviation career opportunities with the U.S. Air Force. (Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Eric Cardenas).

An RPA pilot, shows a student attending the Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA) AirVenture Air Show what an experience it is to operate an F-16 Fighting Falcon from the perspective of a 360 degree video through a virtual reality headset at Oshkosh, Wis., July 26, 2021.

An RPA pilot, shows a student attending the Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA) AirVenture Air Show what an experience it is to operate an F-16 Fighting Falcon from the perspective of a 360 degree video through a virtual reality headset at Oshkosh, Wis., July 26, 2021. AFRS Detachment 1 hosted two booths at the airshow designed to inform, influence, and inspire youth interested in aviation career opportunities with the U.S. Air Force. (Courtesy photo provided by AFRS Detachment 1).

Maj. Kelly McNerney with Air Force Recruiting Service Detachment 1, instructs a student attending the Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA) AirVenture Air Show on the best practices for operating the flight simulator at Oshkosh, Wis., July 26, 2021.

Maj. Kelly McNerney with Air Force Recruiting Service Detachment 1, instructs a student attending the Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA) AirVenture Air Show on the best practices for operating the flight simulator at Oshkosh, Wis., July 26, 2021. AFRS Detachment 1 hosted two booths at the airshow designed to inform, influence, and inspire youth interested in aviation career opportunities with the U.S. Air Force. (Courtesy photo provided by AFRS Detachment 1).

Capt. Blaine Driscoll, a U-28 Combat Systems Officer assigned to the 318th Special Operations Squadron, shows a student attending the Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA) AirVenture Air Show what an experience it is to operate an F-22 Raptor from the perspective of a 360 degree video through a virtual reality headset at Oshkosh, Wis., July 26, 2021.

Capt. Blaine Driscoll, a U-28 Combat Systems Officer assigned to the 318th Special Operations Squadron, shows a student attending the Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA) AirVenture Air Show what an experience it is to operate an F-22 Raptor from the perspective of a 360 degree video through a virtual reality headset at Oshkosh, Wis., July 26, 2021. AFRS Detachment 1 hosted two booths at the airshow designed to inform, influence, and inspire youth interested in aviation career opportunities with the U.S. Air Force. (Courtesy photo provided by AFRS Detachment 1).

Two students compete with a flight simulator game sponsored by the U.S. Air Force Recruiting Service Detachment 1 at the Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA) AirVenture Air Show at Oshkosh, Wis., July 26, 2021.

Two students compete with a flight simulator game sponsored by the U.S. Air Force Recruiting Service Detachment 1 at the Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA) AirVenture Air Show at Oshkosh, Wis., July 26, 2021. AFRS Detachment 1 hosted two booths at the airshow designed to inform, influence, and inspire youth interested in aviation career opportunities with the U.S. Air Force. (Courtesy photo provided by AFRS Detachment 1).

OSHKOSH, Wis. — Air Force Recruiting Service’s Detachment 1 joined scores of aviation enthusiasts during the Experimental Aircraft Association’s AirVenture airshow in Oshkosh, Wisconsin the week of July 23- 29, 2021.

 “We are beyond grateful to have a presence at Oshkosh this year,” said Maj. Kelly McNerney , Det. 1’s director of operations. “This has been on our horizon since our first time here in 2019 and after it was cancelled last year due to COVID-19, it is fantastic to finally be able to experience it.”

Oshkosh is well known within the aviation community as the largest airshow in the world according to EAA’s website. People from across the country and around the world flock to Appleton, Wisconsin to experience the world of aviation spread across multiple grounds.

Just outside of the AirVenture airshow grounds, the Det. 1 team had their largest footprint at a site called “KidVenture.”  Organizers said KidVenture was designed to renew the luster of aviation for a younger generation.

“We set up the majority of our resources in KidVenture with flight simulators, virtual reality goggles with 360-degree videos, and a team of aviation mentors to inspire kids and answer their questions as they waited in lines for their turn,” said Maj. Matthew Roland, Det. 1’s director of Inspire Operations.

In addition to the Det. 1 team, twelve members of their Aviation Inspiration and Mentorship (AIM) team were there to assist for the duration of AirVenture. “These AIM members are critical to the accomplishment of Det. 1’s mission, enabling and empowering a diverse team of Air Force aviators to share their experiences and influence youth,” said Roland. 

Det. 1’s team had experience with a variety of Air Force aircraft and jobs including pilots, combat systems officers and remotely piloted aircraft operators.

“I’ve been an AIM member since 2019 and this is the first time I’ve been able to travel with Det. 1 due to the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Maj. Aaron Payomo, a C-32 pilot. “It’s been a long wait but worth it now that I get to share my experiences with these future pilots.”

Some of those AIM members were from the Air Force Special Operations Command. AFSOC had a large and separate role during the airshow.  While some participated with AIM members, many flew in or on several aircraft based at Cannon Air Force Base, New Mexico, as well as Hurlburt Field, Florida.

“This was my first year at Oshkosh and it has been so humbling,” said Maj. Andrea Barry an AIM member who was a UH-1N Huey helicopter pilot and U-28A Draco pilot. “I met a female high school student here who was so excited to talk to me because she had been looking for months to meet a female pilot who had attended the United States Air Force Academy. It’s what [the girl] has always wanted to do, but she hadn’t met anyone who’d done both until today.”

Det. 1 needs aviators from throughout the Air Force to join their AIM team and support outreach opportunities where they can inspire youth towards a future in aviation.

“The role we fill now is more ‘big-picture’ and the AIM Outreach program allows us opportunities such as [AirVenture] that we wouldn’t otherwise be able to experience or contribute to in our current jobs” explained Barry.

This was the largest event Det. 1 has participated in since it was activated in 2018 as a resource to reach underrepresented groups for AFRS. AirVenture had an estimated attendance of over 608,000 people in the course of the 10 days.

“The goal of having a connection to larger events like these, is to show young people that they can have mentor with a similar background or identity.  AIM members offer that role model and really give a luster to careers in aviation,” said Det. 1’s commander, Lt. Col. Jay “SPINS” Park.

The AirVenture airshow presented volunteers once in a lifetime opportunities. There were helicopter rides over the aircraft parking zones, and formation flights with vintage aircraft.

“This was especially unique for us because my squadron, the 310th Special Operations Squadron, was recently reactivated from the 310 Troop Carrier Squadron which flew C-47s in WWII and on D-Day,” said Capt. Blaine Driscoll , “This was something I never imagined I would get to do when I volunteered to become an AIM member, but I am so glad I did.”

 The AIM Program is open to any rated officer who wants to engage in events around the country and virtually on a tailored schedule.

For more information or questions regarding the AIM Program or Det. 1, email afrs.det1.inspire@us.af.mil.