A Junior Reserved Officers’ Training Corps student from Cienega High School in Vail, Ariz., came to D-M to shadow pilots for a senior exit project.
Kennis Pannell, Navy JROTC Seaman Cadet, undergoing the program offered by her school, was given an assignment by her JROTC commander to shadow the career field of her choice and write an essay on a critical event involving that field for her senior exit project.
After narrowing her options down to either a protocol officer or a pilot, Pannell made her decision.
“I shadowed the pilots because becoming a pilot for the Air Force is a career I have always found interest in,” Pannell said. “Being able to see what they do on a day to day basis was an opportunity I could not pass up.”
Pannell had the chance to shadow Capt. Brandon Liabenow, 354th Fighter Squadron A-10 pilot. She was given a tour of the squadron, learned the duties of a Thunderbolt pilot, tried on the flight equipment and helped the crew chiefs launch a jet.
“She received a rare, in-depth look into the daily operations of an operational A-10C fighter squadron,” said Liabenow. “She was able to see a side of A-10 that few civilians ever will.”
In order to broaden Pannell’s piloting horizons, Liabenow made arrangements for her to shadow Capt. Nelson Willingham, 79th Rescue Squadron HC-130J pilot.
Willingham took her into the HC-130J simulator, showed her the inside of an actual Combat King and gave her a tour of the 79th RQS.
“It is always great to help out a young and motivated student with big aspirations,” said Willingham. “I remember when I was her age and did not know where to begin. I knew that I loved to fly and always wanted to join the Air Force, but I certainly could have used a little direction. “
Pannell would like to go to the Air Force Academy where she would commission and hopefully become a pilot.
“I have no idea what aircraft I would like to fly,” said Pannell. “Both the A-10 and the C-130 seem so exciting in their own way.
Having spent 12 hours total shadowing the pilots, Pannell feels that this has already showed her that a piloting career in the Air Force is something she will pursue.
“It’s an amazing experience to be able to come onto the base and watch the pilots as they do their jobs,” said Pannell. “Before I didn’t know what I wanted to do, but now I’m pretty confident in becoming a pilot, and I now know that it is possible.”