PROVO, Utah – Sep 16, 2019 – The F-16 Fighting Falcon jet rolls down the runway, engines roaring. As the aircraft capable of hitting supersonic speeds quickly gains in acceleration, it takes off, soaring into the sky. Only airmen in the US Air Force are authorized to pilot this multi-role fighter jet, but this past summer, the Air Force ROTC Detachment 855 at BYU gave the city of Orem a little taste of what flying the F-16 Fighting Falcon is like.
Using an F-16 flight simulator, cadets from Detachment 855 taught attendees of Orem's Freedom Vehicles Military Outpost event how to operate the Fighting Falcon. The outpost also featured uniforms, equipment, and old military vehicles from World War I, World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, the Cold War, and the Gulf War.
Despite the abundance of military memorabilia, the debut of the flight simulator to the community gained significant attention. Eager children and their parents waited in long lines to take their turns trying out the simulator, which features the cockpit from an actual F-16 jet. “We were running the simulator all day,” says the detachment’s wing commander Sydney Clark, an exercise science senior at BYU. One by one, everyone took turns sitting in the aircraft seat while a screen projected an animated view of a runway and sky.
Detachment 855’s cadets from BYU and Utah Valley University (UVU) did their best to help everyone have a positive experience, and many people showed interest in the cadets and the AFROTC program. “I was lucky enough to have been exposed to the military my whole life,” says Clark of Rapid City, South Dakota. “For me to be able to take the small experiences I’ve had and share them with others so they can be aware of opportunities available in the Air Force was incredible.”
The detachment mainly uses the flight simulator for recruiting purposes. While previously used at high schools and colleges around Utah county, the successful debut of the flight simulator at the outpost means it will likely make an appearance again next year. “One of the goals of our detachment is to be more involved with the community, especially with the younger generation, to spark interest in the military by introducing kids to flying,” says Clark. “The outpost was a great opportunity for that to happen.”
The cadets from Detachment 855 also assisted with running the event’s annual boot camp. They taught kids how to salute, stand at rest and attention, low crawl with wooden dummy rifles, and navigate through a tire obstacle and ropes course. “One girl in particular seemed scared and was slower than the other kids,” says Cadet Carlos Rivera, a senior studying music at UVU. “I knelt down beside her, and we did the exercises together. Seeing each child gain confidence and excitement as they progressed was exciting.”
The cadets’ efforts brought the AFROTC program and Orem community together, and the cadets look forward to participating in next year’s Freedom Vehicles Military Outpost again. “When I was a kid, I remember going to fairs and crawling into an old military tank or having someone in uniform pick me up and take a picture with me,” says Rivera of Newport News, Virginia. “Some of the kids who came to our simulator and boot camp might end up as pilots one day. They’re going to remember these experiences.”
Media Contact: Chad Little (801) 422-1512
Writer: Erika Magaoay