Cumberland Times-News

April 29, 2013

Mountain Ridge students get feel for modern Air Force

Recruitment trailer uses latest technology to promote choices for careers in branch of military

Angie Brant
Cumberland Times-News

— FROSTBURG — When Justin Fazenbaker was contemplating his career path in the days leading up to his 2008 graduation from Mountain Ridge High School, en-listing in the Air Force was not even an option. However, just five years later, Fazenbaker, now an E3 airman first class, said the Air Force has transformed his life.

Fazenbaker joined local re-cruiter Technical Sgt. Ryan Cole, 311th Recruiting Squadron, for a presentation to the students of Mountain Ridge — called Command Center Alpha.

The one-of-a-kind mobile tour uses the latest in technology to illustrate the many options and opportunities offered by the U.S. Air Force. The 53-foot trailer is filled with equipment and screens designed to offer an interactive tour, complete with 3-D computer graphics, videos, educational kiosks and digital downloads.

Cole said that Command Center Alpha focuses on the cutting-edge technology used by the Air Force every day to complete missions throughout the world.

Using iPads, students enter their personal and school information and are assigned to “squadrons” based on their interests and led through the trailer. They can upload their experience to their Facebook accounts or save them to share with their families and peers.

“This is a great way to give everyone a chance to see what Air Force is about and what we do,” explained Cole. “When I first joined I thought that everyone flew jets, but there are more than 100 career paths in the Air Force.”    

Aleesha Lavin and Tyler Weimer were among the first students who went through the unit, eager to learn more about the Air Force.

Though she is just 14, Lavin said she wanted to learn as much as she could about the Air Force, as her brother is considering enlisting.

Weimer, 18, said he is undecided on a career path and is keeping his options open, determined to consider every possibility.

Fazenbaker said he recalls feeling that same uncertainty as he faced graduation.

“I thought about the Air Force when I was a sophomore, but when I graduated I thought I should try college, but it was not for me,” he admitted.

Fazenbaker said he decided to revisit the option of enlisting in early 2012. He met with Cole and in September departed to basic training. Though he has been in the Air Force for less than a year, Fazenbaker said the decision has already changed his life dramatically.

“I love it, it was the best choice for me,” he explained. “I think I have changed a great deal as a person and I am getting an education and I will have a better career than I had imagined.”

In just a few days, Fazenbaker will travel to Germany for an assignment at Ramstein Air Base.

Cole, who has served for more than 14 years, said the Air Force has afforded him opportunities he never imagined. Originally from Oregon, Cole said the Air Force has proven invaluable to him, personally and professionally. “The greatest advantage has been my education, and it has given me independence, confidence and strengthened my work ethic,” Cole explained. “We are here today to increase the awareness of those opportunities and offer the knowledge for the students to make informed decisions about their futures.”

Contact Angie Brant at abrant@times-news.com.