TERRE HAUTE, Ind. (AP) — Christopher Walsh has always wanted to fly, or at the very least be involved with aviation in some capacity.
Walsh, a cadet lieutenant colonel and group commander with the Terre Haute North Vigo High School Air Force JROTC, was one of about a dozen students to get hands-on experience Saturday during orientation flights at the Hulman Field main terminal.
"I have a lot of family members that were involved in aviation, so that kind of sparked a little interest," Walsh said describing the root of his passion.
Orientation flights are just part of the education cadets get in the JROTC program, Joshua Hall, chief master sergeant and instructor at North Vigo, said.
"In our curriculum we also talk about aviation and aviation principles and things of that nature," Hall said. "They get it not only at home, but they get it in the classroom."
Hall said 30 to 40 students are able to participate in the program every year, and it, to his knowledge, is the only JROTC in the state to offer such an experience.
"We're the only JROTC in the state that's doing this," he said. "We pursue the funds, going after it and taking our time to make it all happen."
This year's flight was Walsh's second since joining JROTC, and he said that events like it give him invaluable experience moving forward.
"ROTC is definitely going to help me in the military," Walsh said, "and this program where we do orientation flights will help me understand the aircraft and how they work."
Walsh said he didn't know which branch of service or military occupational specialty he intends to choose just yet, but knows he wants to be involved, at some level, with aviation.
Maj. Ron Sedam of the Civil Air Patrol piloted the flights and walked the cadets through the in-and-outs of the Cessna 172 and preflight checks.
He showed them various parts of the plane — elevator, rudders and aileron — during idle near the runway. After completing the checklist, cadets strapped in and took a half-hour flight around Terre Haute, viewing downtown from 2,000 feet.
The cadets were also warned to be on the lookout for geese and to serve as Sedam's eyes and ears, he said.
Walsh was on one of the first flights of the day, and he said that even though he has been a part of the orientation flights before, flying never gets old.
"It was awesome," he said fighting back a smile to maintain military bearing. "It really makes you think about the weather because the plane would be facing one way, but you'd be drifting in another. So it really kind of makes you think. It was really awesome to see Terre Haute from up there. It was just really cool."
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