Area students get hands-on experience with jet engine; learn about Air Force careersSubmitted: 12/13/2019
Stephen Goin
Stephen Goin

Area students get hands-on experience with jet engine; learn about Air Force careers
MINOCQUA - Most people think a career in the Air Force means flying planes.

A local recruiter wants young adults to know there are other jobs that can take them to new heights. 

At Minocqua's Lakeland Union High School Friday, students in Adam Raddatz's engineering class got to inspect a General Electric J85 single-shaft turbojet engine.

U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Jacob Gerdts says the engine is normally used in T-38 Talon test planes.

"And they actually use it to train NASA astronauts as well," said Gerdts.

Friday, students learned how they could obtain a career working with military flight equipment.

"Regular engines, are really ... like they're complex but I don't think I've ever seen anything so complex," said 10th grade student Ryan Busche.

Raddatz said the kids in his classroom are used to looking at the inner workings of cars.

"An engine like this the students would never get the opportunity to see," said Raddatz.

In addition to the hands-on learning experience, students spoke with Gerdts and Airman Kyler Jahner about air force vocations other than pilot.

"I think a lot of people are misled to think that the air force is all about pilots, "we're all pilots in the air force," but no we have to have support," said Gerdts.

According to Gerdts, the Air Force has more than 150 different occupations. Gerdts himself worked in aircraft maintenance after he enlisted in 2013.

In 2019, the Air Force surpassed its goals recruiting nearly 35-thousand airmen. Gerdts hopes a few students around North and Central Wisconsin could join the ranks of his fellow airmen soon. 

"I didn't expect to get such a positive reaction out of the students," said Gerdts.

Students like Busche are already considering jobs in the engineering field. He says his focus could shift from automobiles to airplanes. 

"I've always had that thought, maybe working on planes," said Busche.

Raddatz said he loved having the opportunity to spark new careers interests within his students.

"Whatever the students want to do after high school we want to let them have the opportunity to be exposed to that," said Raddatz.

Gerdts reminded students Friday that the Air Force can cover the cost of a college education.

Gerdts visited other north and central Wisconsin schools this week including campuses in Rhinelander and Antigo. 

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