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Deployed Ops: Cadet Gets Lesson in Leadership in Middle East

By Ray Bowden, U.S. Air Force Academy Public Affairs


Cadet 2nd Class Susan Kwon, a geospatial science major from Cupertino, California, returned this summer from a three-week stay at an Air Base in the Middle East.

The trip was part of the Air Force Academy’s Deployed Operations Program, which sends sophomore and junior cadets to overseas units to see how Airmen team up to complete the Air Force’s mission.

Kwon’s time with Airmen and officers at various units included a tour of Kuwait City with an agent assigned to the Air Force Office of Special Investigations.

“We were shuffled around most units, so we experienced a bit of everything,” she said.

Tech. Sgt. Megan Schmidt, the NCO in charge of Operation Air Force, said cadets taking part in Deployed Operations are exposed to a variety of Air Force specialties.

“They interact with senior NCOs, field grade officers and company grade officers, to see how senior leaders make decisions,” she said. “This helps them better understand their role as second lieutenants after they graduate.”

Specifically, Kwon watched senior officers make decisions based on their trust in the expertise of the enlisted force.

“You’ve got to trust NCOs and learn from them when you start-out as a lieutenant,” Kwon said.

In Ali Al Salem, Kwon traded her Academy dormitory room for a tent and oppressive heat.

“It was extremely hot, no matter the time of the day,” she said. “The heat was something you just learned to deal with. One hundred degrees eventually became comfortable.”

The trip gave Kwon a better understanding of the purpose of the Academy’s military training.

“Cadet Wing Training makes things safe and smooth,” she said. “This mindset is definitely something the Academy incorporates across the Cadet Wing.”

For all the experience, Kwon was happy to return to Colorado Springs.

“It was a fun and incredible trip and an amazing learning experience, but I did miss [cooler weather], a bed and access to familiar food,” she said.