Smithsburg teen gets cadet training

August 04, 2005|by JANET HEIM

The United States Air Force runs in Ashley Mitchell's blood.

The Smithsburg teen's parents and grandparents served in the Air Force and her sister is serving in the Air Force.

Ashley, 16, a four-year member of the Hagerstown Composite Squadron, recently attended the National Civil Air Patrol Cadet Officer School at Maxwell Air Force Base in Alabama. The program is a collaboration between Civil Air Patrol senior members and Air Force Reservists.

From June 20 to 30, Ashley and about 100 other teenagers from across the country took part in the leadership training program which was based on the U.S. Air Force Squadron Officer School.

"It was amazing. The instructors there have a lot of knowledge," Ashley said. "There was sleep deprivation, but it was definitely worth it."


Candidates for Cadet Officer School must be 16 years old and have earned the Gen. Billy Mitchell Award, which requires passing a test with 100 questions about aerospace topics and leadership theory.

The students stayed on the campus of Huntingdon College in Montgomery, Ala., attending classes each day at the Air Force base.

The rigorous program included reading assignments, active participation in seminar and lecture discussions and completion of three speaking and two writing exercises. Lectures and seminars focused on leadership communication skills, strategic thinking and aerospace heritage.

Ashley said volleyball was a big part of the experience. The team sport taught each flight to work together.

Ashley's flight had no experienced volleyball players and they began as the "bad team" and finished as the champions, she said.

A final activity, titled Project X, required participants to put their new knowledge and skills into action.

"It was like we were really in the Air Force," Ashley said. "... I would definitely do it again."

Ashley, who works at Ledo Pizza and Family Recreation Park, wants to pursue a four-year degree in a ROTC program so she can become an officer in the Air Force.

Her ultimate career goal is to become a physical therapist, either in the Air Force or after she has completed her commitment to the Air Force.

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