USAFA cadet interns with 301 MXG

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Kedesha Pennant
  • 301st Fighter Wing Public Affairs

A U.S. Air Force Academy cadet experienced the Air Force Reserve F-16 Fighting Falcon mission first-hand during an internship with the 301st Fighter Wing Maintenance Group this summer.


Cadet 3rd Class Bennett Copley, a sophomore at USAFA, Colorado Springs, Colo., is shadowing the 301st Aircraft Maintenance Squadron during his month-long internship. Under an internship program for cadets, students can apply to choose which unit and profession they want to observe with the approval of their commanding air officer.


Copley is a Dallas native who ultimately wants to pilot the U.S. Air Force’s primary low-altitude close air support aircraft, the A-10 Thunderbolt II. To help his understanding, he requested to get an inside look within the maintenance group of a fighter wing to gain an appreciation for the Airmen who keep the jets in the air.


“This [might be] a perspective a lot of pilots have… not really appreciating the maintenance side,” Copley said. “I hope to be a better pilot [by] understanding what goes on behind the scenes.”


Copley also has a particular tie to the 301 FW’s legacy. His father, Col. Lawson Copley, is a Traditional Reservist who serves both as the 301 FW Medical Squadron commander and as a flight surgeon when he is not teaching as a professor of orthopedic surgery and pediatrics or working at Texas Scottish Rite Hospital for Children's Medical Center in his civilian roles. However, Cadet Copley found being a pilot more intriguing.


"There’s something about flying an airplane, and not everyone gets to do so,” he said. “The A-10 is the best aircraft for the close-air support mission the Air Force has [and], that's the aircraft I want to fly."


Under the tutelage of Maj. Kelly Ryan, 301 FW AMXS maintenance operations commander, the cadet was shown sortie generation, flight scheduling, schedule maintenance and aircraft parts.


“I wanted to really focus on how pilots can affect our processes,” Ryan said. “[This includes] how pilots affect our scheduling, how the sorties, turn patterns and munitions affect us, and how we plan for those requirements. [Therefore], when he becomes a pilot, he has a better perspective of how he can have a more effective and cohesive operations and maintenance team.


Copley’s thoughts on his own leadership style reflect his understanding of team cohesion.


"Empower your Airmen, and they'll treat you right," Copley said. “It’s very important to take care of your people.”


Copley’s experience encompasses the Air Force’s total force initiative. Though he will become an Active Duty officer upon graduation in 2023, he has the chance to see how real world operations happen between Active-Duty, Guard, Reserve and civilians within varied military branches at this joint reserve base—just like it happens in a joint deployed environment. This program allows him to understand how the Reserve component accomplishes the same proficiency and competency requirements to complete the mission as Active Duty Airmen.


“I’m familiar with the 301 FW and the Reserve because of my dad,” he explained. “[But I’ve seen] they really care about what they do, and [how] they pay attention to every little detail.”

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