SELFRIDGE AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, Mich. -- No one at school expected this. On a warm Sunday afternoon, Nicolette Anderson lined up with a half dozen other young men and women, all decked up in the same gray t-shirts, and marched across a parking lot. The steps are among the first she will take to become a full-fledged American Airman. It is her second weekend of duty with the Michigan Air National Guard at Selfridge Air National Guard Base, where she is slated to eventually serve as a crew chief on the KC-135 Stratotanker.
And next month, she'll graduate from Romeo High School in nearby Romeo, Mich. "I don't think anyone at school expected this," said Anderson, as she learned the basics of marching in formation during her second Unit Training Assembly - commonly referred to as "drill weekend" - with the 127th Wing at Selfridge. Does she feel confident she'll be able to handle the duties on the Selfridge flight line, prepping the big tanker aircraft for missions?
"You put a task in front of me and I'll carry it out," she said. "I'm excited to get started." Not yet 18, her parents had to co-sign her enlistment form when she signed up for a six-year commitment with the Air National Guard. Until she ships out to attend Air Force Basic Military Training at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland in Texas, she'll serve with the 127th Wing's Student Flight at Selfridge. The flight teaches military basics to those who have signed up, but are awaiting a date for basic training. Instruction delivered in the student flight - how to salute, the rank structure, etc. - helps give the new Airmen a jump start on the knowledge they'll be expected to gain during the eight weeks of basic training at Lackland. "I feel like I'm getting enough to help get me started," said Duane Lewis, another student flight member, who is scheduled to leave for basic training in mid-June.
Lewis will have attended three Student Flight weekends by the time he ships out for Lackland. He'll attend technical training school to serve as an armament systems specialist for the A-10 Thunderbolt II squadron stationed at Selfridge after that.
Lewis' father, Staff Sgt. Tevis Williams, is also a member of the 127th Wing, which influenced Lewis' decision to join. "He never pushed it, but I could see that he enjoyed it," Lewis said.
For Anthony An, the May UTA represented his first weekend in the Air National Guard. "I love it so far," he said.
Like Anderson, An is slated to serve as a crew chief on the KC-135 at Selfridge. Crew chiefs are responsible for preparing and launching aircraft, as well as performing minor repairs on the aircraft.
"I looked at the various services and this seemed like the best fit," said An, who is a third-year student at Wayne State University in Detroit.
"The money to help pay for college will be nice, but that's not the primary reason I joined, he said. "I hope to be able to be a pilot some day. I know it will be a challenge to get selected for that, but if I finish my degree and work hard out here - that's my goal." Student Flight member Stephanie Young was all be ready to sign up for an active duty commitment with one of the services, but family obligations make it important for her to stay in the local area. She said the Air National Guard allows her to be a part of the military, but also to perform her service at home.
"This gives me a chance to take care of what I need to take care of and still be able to serve," she said.
Student Flight member Sam Jones joined the 127th Wing with a friend, who already left for basic training.
"I decided to step it up a little bit, to see what I could do with this opportunity," said Jones.