Middle Schoolers Discover Variety Of Military Careers

Col. Brian Cherolis tells Abdulameer Abdulsamad about the gear he uses while flying an F-16. MIRROR PHOTOS BY KAREN GERHARDINGER

BY KAREN GERHARDINGER| MIRROR REPORTER — Law enforcement officer, electrician, mechanic and pilot – these are all jobs familiar to most middle schoolers. After a November 10 visit from members of the Air Force, Army, Coast Guard, Navy and Marines, Fallen Timbers Middle School students learned that anything considered a career in the civilian world is also available as a career in one of the branches of the military.

“They are soldiers, but they have jobs as doctors, engineers, secretaries, accountants, counselors and psychiatrists,” explained counselor Jennifer Minni, who organized the event to expose students to one of the many pathways for post-secondary education and careers.

“I’m shocked at how many jobs there are. If you want to be an EMT, you can,” said Army Staff Sgt. Maria Painter, who works as an air traffic controller. “We even have dentists, lawyers, finance officers and dog handlers.”

With the 180th Fighter Wing nearby, most of the students are familiar with the F-16s that fly over a few times a day, so Air Force pilot Col. Brian Cherolis fielded plenty of questions about his job. 

Do you get to fly upside down? Have you ever gotten sick? How long do you have to stay in school to become a pilot? How often do you have to stop and do pushups?

The Air Force typically begins looking at grades as far back as junior high, so it’s important for students to maintain good grades, he said.

“I was a kid who always wanted to fly,” said Cherolis, who was commissioned after college and went to flight school for three years before becoming a fighter pilot 15 years ago.

It’s important to stay physically fit for his job, but his superior officers aren’t ordering him to do pushups – that’s something that happens during basic training, Cherolis said. He flies upside down as much as possible in his favorite plane – the F-16 – but has never personally gotten sick from the maneuver.

Master Sgt. Kathy Dohrmann, whose sons attend FTMS, is a crew chief at the 180th Fighter Wing, maintaining the F-16s so they’re safe to fly. 

While the Air Force has the most aircraft to guard the sky, the Army controls the ground, the Navy has the most ships and controls the sea, the Marines are the fast-deploying version of the Army and the Coast Guard provides law enforcement and protection of the coastal waters, Cherolis explained to students.

“And now we have an entire division devoted to space – Space Force,” he said.

While Minni didn’t find a Space Force rep to attend the military informational event, she did bring in representatives from the Coast Guard, Navy and Marines as well.

Sgt. Joseph Shreves, a recruiter with the U.S. Marines, is an electrician by trade, and he recalled how he decided to join the military.

“I saw a commercial with this wonderful uniform and I knew I would wear it one day,” he said.

The toughest part of becoming a Marine was the basic training that wraps up with the Crucible, a 9-mile hike carrying 60 pounds and surviving 54 hours with limited resources. 

Navy recruiter Heather Burns knew she wanted to join the military and become a linguist, but initially she thought she would join the Army like others in her family. A Navy recruiter worked with Burns to launch a military career as a linguist – someone who analyzes information and communications in other languages.

Petty Officer 3rd Class Johnny Benitez, of the U.S. Coast Guard, drives boats and provides maritime law enforcement, search and rescue.

“It’s an opportunity to help people and save someone’s life,” he said. “Whenever we finish a search and rescue case and the people are ashore and safe and say thank you, that’s the proudest moment I have.”

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