Over the summer, Walla Walla University hosted 11 students, including three international students, as they attended the Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) flight academy program through the United States Air Force (USAF).
Prior to the pandemic, the Air Force reached out to Matthew Toelke, director of aviation and assistant professor of technology, to ask if WWU would consider hosting about a dozen recently graduated high school students selected for the special Air Force flight academy program.
“The USAF funds the students entirely, including commercial travel to and from Washington,” said Linda Felipez, department chair and professor of technology. “We are one of 22 colleges and universities throughout the U.S. who are hosting more than 400 students.” The cadets stayed in WWU’s Foreman and Conard residential halls and ate in the campus cafeteria. During their time on campus, the visiting students studied flight and general aviation at WWU’s Technology Flight Center and the Canaday Technology Center. Their training and course work prepared students to successfully pass testing required for their private pilot’s license.
One student, Kaleb Runyon, hopes the training gives him an advantage as he plans to start the Air Force flight training program. “I hope I can reach higher ranks and make my way to becoming a fighter pilot,” said Runyon. Another student appreciated the daily practice flights and experience connecting with multiple airports.
Faculty, staff, and qualified students in the department of technology worked as professors, certified flight instructors, and chaperones. Joe Englehart, university auto staff, and Lydia Krueger, senior in aviation management, played lead roles in the program as the lead certified flight instructor and ground school instructor respectively. “Teaching this class was my senior project, and I am super excited to work with the university and the junior ROTC program,” said Krueger. Englehart noted that it was a huge group effort to make the summer instensive program a success.
The Air Force’s main goals for the flight academy were to increase general interest in aviation and in the Air Force, as well as to provide both female and minority students with an opportunity to explore aviation as a career.
To learn more about the aviation program within the WWU department of technology, visit wallawalla.edu/aviation.
Posted Sept. 17, 2021.