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Columbus AFB instructor pilots mentor cadets

Lt. Col. Nathaniel Wilds, 50th Flying Squadron commander, speaks with a Marion Military Institute cadet, Feb. 10, 2020, at MMI in Marion, Ala. Challenging academic programs, hands-on opportunities and rigorous course work prepare cadets for transfer to a four-year college or university or to obtain an appointment to a service academy. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman Davis Donaldson)

Lt. Col. Nathaniel Wilds, 50th Flying Squadron commander, speaks with a Marion Military Institute cadet, Feb. 10, 2020, at MMI in Marion, Ala. Challenging academic programs, hands-on opportunities and rigorous course work prepare cadets for transfer to a four-year college or university or to obtain an appointment to a service academy. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman Davis Donaldson)

First Lt. Everett Montano, 37th Flying Training Squadron instructor pilot, answers a question asked by a Marion Military Institute cadet Feb. 10, 2020, at MMI in Marion, Ala. MMI was founded in 1842 and is one of only four military junior colleges in the United States. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman Davis Donaldson)

First Lt. Everett Montano, 37th Flying Training Squadron instructor pilot, answers a question asked by a Marion Military Institute cadet Feb. 10, 2020, at MMI in Marion, Ala. MMI was founded in 1842 and is one of only four military junior colleges in the United States. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman Davis Donaldson)

Air Force, Army, Coast Guard, Marine and Navy officers were part of a panel Feb. 10, 2020, at Marion Military Institute in Marion, Ala., where they answered questions from MMI cadets. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman Davis Donaldson)

Air Force, Army, Coast Guard, Marine and Navy officers were part of a panel Feb. 10, 2020, at Marion Military Institute in Marion, Ala., where they answered questions from MMI cadets. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman Davis Donaldson)

Marion Military Institute cadets raise their hands, while four 14th Flying Training Wing instructor pilots stand in front of them Feb. 10, 2020, at MMI in Marion, Ala. Before raising their hands, the cadets were asked who wanted to be a pilot. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman Davis Donaldson)

Marion Military Institute cadets raise their hands, while four 14th Flying Training Wing instructor pilots stand in front of them Feb. 10, 2020, at MMI in Marion, Ala. Before raising their hands, the cadets were asked who wanted to be a pilot. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman Davis Donaldson)

MARION, Ala. --

Five 14th Flying Training Wing instructor pilots from Columbus Air Force Base, Mississippi, visited Marion Military Institute, in Marion, Alabama, Feb. 10 to answer cadets’ questions about Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) and the U.S. Air Force Academy.

Amongst the five Air Force officers, there were Army, Coast Guard, Marine and Navy officers to answer questions about ROTC and their respective branch’s service academies.

The day began with the officers arriving and conversing with the cadets at lunch. After, the cadets and officers gathered in a room to hold a group discussion about the cadet’s possible career paths.

The five Air Force IPs were Academy graduates and 1st Lt. Everett Montano, 37th Flying Training Squadron IP, said he thought this opportunity was essential for the cadets to have an understanding of the Academy.

“I think speaking to the cadets was important because I remember being in their shoes and not knowing anything about what was in store for my future,” Montano said. “I wanted to be able to help fill some of those gaps in their uncertainty and help them build a better path.”

Montano said the panel allowed cadets to get a sense of the different opportunities the military can offer to officers.

After the group discussion, the officers were separated into different rooms to focus on the various service academies. The cadets followed the officers based on the academy they planned to pursue.

Retired U.S. Army Lt. Col. Thomas Bowen, MMI director and coordinator of the event, said he was grateful for the Columbus AFB IPs to visit and mentor the cadets.

“It’s an opportunity for anybody who wants to go to the Air Force Academy to look forward to what they can become,” Bowen said. “The cadets were able to witness the five officers’ different paths and are given an opportunity to emulate a similar path.”