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104th Fighter Wing hosts students from Granby Memorial High School

  • Published
  • By (Courtesy article)
  • 104th Fighter Wing Public Affairs

BARNES AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, MA -- Students from Granby Memorial High School, Granby, Conn. visited the 104th Fighter Wing on Friday Feb. 11, 2022 at Barnes National Air Guard Base. Seven students ranging in age from 15 to 17 years old spent the day walking around the base with Master Sgt. Tina Scobie and Tech. Sgt. Brian Whitman. Students expressed interests in Security Forces, Engineering, Aircraft Fuels, and more that they were able to explore while on their tour guided by Master Sgt. Scobie and Tech. Sgt. Whitman. Although it was a brisk forty degree day, students walked around the base from building to building to listen to each new airman speak.

The morning started with an unclassified briefing from Capt. Michael ‘Risky’ Bednaz. Capt. Bednaz recapped his history with the guard and the process of how he got to where he is today, assuring students it is okay if it takes you a little while to get to where you want to be. He welcomed questions about his experience as a pilot. Students asked questions such as how many Gs he had reached to how he uses the bathroom while in the air. He explained the technology of his pilot helmet. Students were impressed to learn that some of the technology could be comparable to a virtual reality headset and that each pilot is specially fit for his or her own helmet, which can cost upwards of $500,000.

Following their debriefing, students headed into a hangar to meet Senior Airman Felix Chapdelaine where they were able to get up close and personal with a static F-15. Chapdelaine explained what his job of keeping up with the maintenance of the F-15s entails. He spoke very passionately about his profession and the gratitude that comes with working on the F-15s.

“I love my job so much I drive an hour just to get here everyday,” said Chapdelaine.

Chapdelaine revealed that the jets were built as early as the 70’s and when they were built it was probably not anticipated that the guard would still be using them today. When students asked why the guard is still using the same jets from the 70’s,

Chapdelaine explained to the group, “Driving the F-15s is like picking between driving a minivan and a ferrari. You need to think of which one will last longer.”

Although it is important and can be tedious to keep up with maintaining the wellness and functionality of the F-15s due to their age, it is remarkable that the jets are still flown as often as they are today.

After getting familiar with the static F-15, students headed out to the flight line to watch the morning go. Escorted onto the runway by Master Sgt. Christina Ridolfi, students were merely feet away from the F-15s as they launched into the air. Master Sgt. Ridolfi went into short detail about some of her duties and responsibilities as a longtime airport manager for the National Guard. The students were able to watch four F-15s launch as well as listen in on the radio between Master Sgt. Ridolfi and the pilots.

To wind down from the excitement of watching the jets launch, the students sat down for lunch accompanied by Command Chief Master Sgt. Paul Barbee. Chief Barbee gave a recollection of his career history. Explaining his travels due to work, his different positions, he even revealed he had worked in the pentagon. Students freely asked questions about any secret information he had obtained at the Pentagon, “So are there aliens?”, asked 15 year old Kian. Chief Barbee chuckled and joked that he had the same question when first starting to work there but reassured the group that he knew nothing that they did not.

The second half of the tour went on to explore the careers in logistics and vehicle maintenance. Students heard from a handful of airmen in logistics explaining their reasons for joining the Guard, for many the answer was academic as well as monetary benefits. But that is not to take away from their testimonies of stating the fulfillment they have experienced by joining the National Guard, from the skills they have learned, the places they have traveled, but most importantly from the family they have acquired since joining. An emphasis on teamwork as well as the dedication and passion to the profession one has chosen to do is what shined through to the students of Granby High School.