VALDOSTA -- Lowndes High School's GA-81st Air Force Junior ROTC held its annual C-130 familiarization flight Wednesday morning, compliments of the 71st Rescue Squadron at Moody Air Force Base.

There were two flights lasting about 45 minutes each as an HC-130 transported about 85 cadets from the AFJROTC program over the sometimes bumpy skies of South Georgia. Cadets received a safety briefing from crew members prior to boarding the plane, along with ear plugs and air sickness bags. The noise aboard a C-130 in flight is loud, and the airsickness bags are normally a precautionary measure. Unfortunately for some of the passengers on the second flight, the bags became a necessity.

Cadet 1st Lt. Cheryl Gibbs was making her third flight and said this year's flight was rougher than what she had experienced before.

The flight normally takes place earlier in the year when conditions are cooler, said Lt. Col. Dean Failor, AFJROTC senior aerospace science instructor.

The 71st RQS, which has been continually deployed in support of Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom, took over the mission when the Air National Guard unit that normally supports the AFJROTC was activated.

This year, the cadets experienced something new during the flight. After the aircrew ensured the passengers were secured with seat belts, the tail ramp was lowered while the plane was in flight. This gave the cadets an impressive view of the horizon and countryside a few thousand feet below.

When the ramp was lowered, Cadet Senior Airman Reeda Batts' immediate response was, "It's beautiful."

Batts was all smiles during first flight aboard a C-130. "I think it's wonderful," she said. "I'd like to fly the whole day."

Cadet Senior Airman Phillip Bramley was on his third flight and appeared to be as excited as he would have been on his first one. The lowering of the ramp was a first for him and very interesting, he said. He has flown on both commercial and military planes, and flying in a military aircraft is different, he said.

There were also a few Lowndes High School faculty joining the cadets for the flight. It was Delia Hamm's first military aircraft flight. "This was truly an experience," Hamm said." I enjoyed it, but it's rough. I mean, it gives you a greater appreciation for our men who fly these planes. It's not cool. It was a little rocky and a little bit warm. I've flown many times, but this took a lot of stamina."

To contact reporter Rip Prine, please call 244-3400, ext. 237.

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