AFJROTC lifts off

Domenika Popovych lies beside the boom operator and watches the KC-135 refuel another aircraft.


            Last month, ROTC students visited a nearby army base and boarded a distinct refueling plane. Most recently, the students of ROTC competed in the Bridgeton Drill competition. 

            On April 11, select students from the ROTC program had a once in a lifetime opportunity to board a military aircraft. “On the 11th, we went to Joint Base Dix Maguire Lakehurst where we got to witness a KC-135, which is a midair refueling plane, refuel a c17, which is a cargo plane,” Aidan Naused explained.  

            With students stationed around the plane, each had an opportunity to experience all aspects of the trip. Some students, such as Brianna Pelaez, had the chance to sit in the cockpit during takeoff. “I felt like a pilot myself being in the cockpit taking off,” Pelaez stated, “I had a headset on, so I was able to hear the pilot’s conversations and what was going on.”  

            Everyone gained new facets of knowledge on how the planes and systems worked. “I learned a boatload of information on that trip, from air navigation to the jobs of boom operators aboard the plane,” said Alvin Kecicaj. “One of the operators was the one controlling the rear arm of the plane, which was where the fuel went into to, a truly amazing but scary job since they are dealing with millions of dollars of equipment.” 

            The US Air Force decommissioned the KC-135 aircraft that took its last flight with the members of ROTC and the 108 wing (a unit of the New Jersey Air National Guard). “All of the functions and history that the 108th wing gave us was incredible and truly makes me think about how technology has come along so far,” Kecicaj chimed.  

AFJROTC students and members of the 108 wing smile for a picture while seated on the aircraft.

            Naused laid down to get the best view of the boom operator refueling an aircraft in real time. “My favorite part was being able to sit in the back of the plane where the boom operator controls the boom,” Naused communicated.  

            Kecicaj also had the opportunity to watch the plane in action, “I would say was the mid-air refueling which we were able to look at them do through the windows of the plane and was a breathtaking sight to see. The delicacy and precision that it takes to do that is truly amazing.”  

            Along with the trip, the ROTC crew took part in their last drill competition on April 29.  Andrew Yarznbowicz took part in six different teams. He participated as a member in four and commanded the remaining two. Yarznbowicz added, “We put in the work, and it paid off. Overall, I was ecstatic and running on adrenaline when they called Old Bridge over the speaker system. One of the best feelings ever and the best way to end my last drill competition.” 

Yarznbowicz commanded the Armed Flight Exhibition and Armed Color Guard, which consisted of timed tricks with a rifle weighing in at 8.5 pounds. “We actually placed first in this event, and this was the first time we participated in Armed Flight Exhibition since COVID,” Yarznbowicz expressed. “This is the second time we’ve won first ever since the AFJROTC program opened in 2000.”  

Ashley Mullin, Julie Ivan, Jayleigh Guzman, and Shayaan Qaiser sit aboard the KC-135 plane.

            The Bridgeton Drill competition had several segments. Overall, students did extremely well and placed in multiple competition events. “I was the commander of Armed Regulation and Armed Dual Exhibition. I commanded my team in armed regulation,” Brianna Palaez explained. “They marched with rifles in the sequence and were executed well.” Palaez, along with another cadet, placed third in an Armed Dual Exhibition.  

            With a secured win for the second time ever in the Armed Flight Exhibition, ROTC members can pride themselves on their newly found flying experience and competition wins. 

Posted on 5/12/23

Photos provided by Samantha Prado Roberts

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