Air Force officers share paths to personal, professional success with cadets

  • Published
  • By Mark W. Gaston
  • Air University Public Affairs

The director of Air Force Cyberspace Operations and Warfighter Communications and alum from Historically Black Colleges and Universities shared leadership insights and career and life experiences with about 40 local ROTC and Junior ROTC cadets recently.

Brig. Gen. Terrence Adams, who commissioned through the ROTC program at Alabama State University in Montgomery, partnered with the Montgomery TechLab to host the mentoring event, held Aug. 31, 2022, in conjunction with the Department of the Air Force IT and Cyberpower Conference.  

The mentors included active duty total force and retired Air Force officers, and the cadets were from Robert E. Lee High School's JROTC unit and ASU's ROTC Detachment 019.

The session provided highlights of the panelists' career pathways to show what the cadets could achieve in the future. The cadets got ideas on their futures and valuable advice from those who have walked the path of a minority Air Force officer.

"During this event, I wanted the JROTC and ROTC students to learn and be inspired by the many opportunities the Air Force can offer. It's imperative that they see in us (African American officers) the future shoes they could be walking in," said Capt. Malcom Skinner, B-1 bomber weapon systems officer, Dyess Air Force Base, Texas. "I would love to look off the wing of my jet and see someone that looks like me in command of the other aircraft, and that's why I'm standing here to show them it's possible."

In addition to the panel, the cadets had an opportunity to interact with officers from a variety of career fields in breakout sessions.

"This allowed the cadets to ask about specific careers ranging from aviation, cybersecurity, operations, and space, to name a few," said Dex McCain, retired Air Force officer and panel moderator.

"The importance of having a successful mentoring event is to share priceless wisdom and give insight on the sacrifices it took for our mentors to be in the position they are in now," said cadet Jalen Thompson, AFROTC Detachment 019. "Mentoring events are a safe space for questions or concerns and establish an open line of communication where years of experience are passed down to the younger generation."

The panelists were able to share stories about their hardships and be vulnerable with the cadets.

"I saw total force officers engaging and expressing genuine interest in the cadets. And I listened to individuals talk about the good, bad, and ugly of their careers and student lives and how they either bounced back or achieved variations of success," said Lt. Col. Lisa Boyer, commander, AFROTC Detachment 019. "You usually do not hear about the personal stories from officers, so to hear the rest of the story was eye-opening, refreshing, and encouraging."

The mentoring event concluded with a visit and closing remarks by Lauren Knausenberger, Air Force chief information officer, who pledged her support of HBCU programs, growing minority talent, and diversifying the workforce of the Air Force.