By Sophia Afsar-Keshmiri, Chronicle Summer Staff
On Tuesday, July 12, South High grad Cameron Woodard gave a presentation to the South Glens Falls Rotary Club about his first year at the Air Force Academy.
The Club had honored Cameron with its annual South High graduating senior award “for academics and community service. I was nominated…by faculty and administrators in the South Glens Falls School District.”
Cameron said that summer at the Academy is divided into three blocks, two classes that are the equivalent of a semester long, and a vacation block.
“I selected the jump program as my first choice,” for the first summer block. “I thought it would be really cool and a lot of fun, which it was,” he said.
Cameron said he spent two weeks learning “the full process of jumping out of an airplane, to freefalling and to finally correctly landing on the ground…
“I learned how to position my body in a way that allows for stable freefall. Then I learned the many different emergency procedures and how to resolve them in the unlikely event that one of them occur. And finally I learned how to land my parachute safely on the ground.”
Cameron concluded the program with “five jumps out of the plane.” He said, “You have to complete all five of your jumps” to “earn your jump wings.”
Cameron said that the first time he jumped out of plane he was alone — “just me and my parachute.”
He said this is a unique aspect of the Air Force Academy. “Just about all other programs in the world you have to be attached to someone with their jump license in order to be able to jump.” He called it “a once in a lifetime opportunity.”
“It feels like you shouldn’t be doing it,“ he says of jumping out of an airplane, “but the freefall is one of the most exhilarating feelings that I’ve ever experienced, and then pulling the parachute has spectacular views.”
Cadets who successfully complete the program “earn a jump badge to wear on your uniform.” Cameron said his jump wings “were pinned on by one of the instructors I look up to,” which he said was a “good memory from my time in jump.”
Cameron said, “My second block was combat survival training, which is a required program.”
From a military background
What started Cameron’s interest in the Air Force Academy? “I come from a family with a military background,” he said. “I wanted to follow in their footsteps while also continuing my leadership development.”
When he “visited the Academy in 2015 and 2019,” he said he “fell in love with.”
From that moment on, “I made it my goal and dream to set myself up to attend the Air Force Academy.”
“The application to get an appointment to the United States Air Force Academy is very competitive,” he said. “There were about 11,000 applicants and only 1,100 were offered an appointment.”
Cameron said, “My favorite part of the Academy is being part of a team, the countless opportunities, and meeting new people. Also, the football games are crazy, too.”
He said a downside “is not having my own vehicle to drive and not being able to get home for a quick weekend if need be…Can’t say that I didn’t hustle upperclassmen for their cars, though, but I did have to fill up their tanks.”
Eyes soaring, gliding next
Looking ahead, Cameron said “the next airmanship program I am interested in is the Soaring (glider) program, as well as possibly earning my private pilot’s license.”
In Soaring, he said he would “learn to control and fly a glider…towed up to a certain altitude and then released…I’ve heard that it is an amazing experience as there is no engine, so no noise, and the views are also spectacular.”
He told The Chronicle he is pursuing a major in Aerospace Engineering.
“Aero 210 has been my favorite class so far. This is an introductory course to design and perfecting aircraft.”
Asked about post-graduation, Cameron said, “Right now I am thinking about going to pilot school. I am thinking that I might want to be a test pilot, or just fly Heavies (C-130), bombers or Remotely Piloted Aircraft (RPA).”
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