MOODY AIR FORCE BASE -- Students from Lowndes High School got a break from school, but received another type of education Thursday as they followed airmen on duty at Moody Air Force Base Thursday.

The GA-81st Air Force Junior ROTC program sent about 27 cadets, junior and seniors, said Lt. Col. Dean Failor (retired), senior aerospace science instructor. Every semester, cadets participate in the Air Force Shadow program. The AFJROTC program calls it "career day." This is the twelfth year he has arranged for the cadets to go to Moody for the event, Failor said.

The Valdosta Daily Times accompanied four cadets during their tour with Moody AFB Fire/Emergency Services. The cadets were Anthony Cazzell, Grant Elkins, Marlon Jones and Jathan Scotton. Station Chief David LaPlante gave the cadets a briefing about the firefighter's mission and a tour of the facility. The cadets also saw some of the specialized equipment worn by the unit and experienced the feel of wearing some of it. The cadets also climbed into truck cabs as LaPlante explained how they operated during emergency situations.

Grant Elkins, a senior, was experiencing his second visit under the Shadow program at Moody. Last year he was with the security forces, he said. Elkins said he liked his experience with the firefighters because of their hands-on experience with the fire trucks. Elkins is planning on joining the Air Force after graduation, but he hasn't decided what specialty he wants to enter.

Marlon Jones was at his first career day as a cadet. "I love this," he said. "I learned that firefighting is very physical, and there's a lot of work that they have to do. I thought they just put fires out; there's a lot more work to it." He wants to check out the Air Force security forces next year.

The fire station has been in the Moody Shadow program for a few years and gives the cadets a chance to see what the men and women at the station do, day in and day out, LaPlante said. "Hopefully it'll guide their career path," he said.

LaPlante also views the shadow program as a good opportunity for the fire fighters. "Speaking as a firefighter, this isn't a job just anybody needs to get into. This is a job that we would rather have somebody that wants to be in the job. This gives them an opportunity to give them a little bit of a trial run, just to get an idea to see if they want to do this job for the rest of their life, he said.

Cadet April Cleary was shadowing 1st Lt. Alysia Harvey, deputy chief, 347th Public Affairs (PA) as Harvey assisted The Valdosta Daily Times on the shadow program. After the fire station, Cleary was headed to the Public Affairs Office to see the internal phase of PA, and that included an up-close view of how the base newspaper, "The Guardian," is put together. Cleary would also see how PA handles community relations, including the media, Harvey said.

Cadets shadowed airmen from the security forces, aircrew, chapel, air traffic control, medical group, explosive ordinance disposal, maintenance, weather, legal and communications. "This is a Moody Air Force Base Shadow Day and it's a variety of different career fields that volunteered and said, 'Hey I'd like to take shadow cadets,' " Harvey said. "It's something that we do every year."

Harvey said the program is for all high schools in the area that bring seniors and juniors out toward the end of the school year. They send two choices for each cadet, and based on that, Moody tries to match them up with their first choice, and if they can't, they match them with their second choice.

Moody has been a staunch supporter of the AFJROTC program for the 30 years, Failor said. On May 6, during its National Awards program, the Lowndes High School AFJROTC will present a plaque to Team Moody in recognition for that support. Making the event a little more special will be a reception all the alumni of the Lowndes High AFJROTC program, Failor said.

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

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