BEALE AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. (AFNS) --
In 1929, Lt. Gen. Elwood R. Quesada set a sustained inflight refueling record by flying six continuous days over Los Angeles. Today, Quesada’s trailblazing legacy inspires Beale Air Force Base Airmen as they introduce students from underrepresented communities to STEM and pilot careers within the Air Force.
On Feb. 3, eight Beale AFB Airmen from various career fields visited Anna McKenney Intermediate School in Marysville, as Project Quesada’s first event.
“Project Quesada is an Air Combat Command initiative where the Air Force is reaching out to minority serving institutions and including them in our new diversity and inclusion program, while also reaching out toward younger groups of junior high, high school, and college age students that may not necessarily have thought that something like becoming a pilot was even an option,” said Lt. Col. Eric Antonietti, 9th Operations Support Squadron director of staff.
Anna McKenney students received a hands-on demonstration of the U-2 Dragon Lady space suit, a Q&A session from first term and career Airmen, and an opportunity to try the tubed food unique to U-2 pilots.
“We learned about how pilots can use the bathroom in space and the foods they eat,” said Joshua, an eighth-grade student. So, when I heard that, it was really shocking for me.”
During each presentation, the Project Quesada team tied Air Force operations with the students’ daily lesson. A sixth-grade class’s diagram of Earth’s layers became a springboard for Antonietti to illustrate the difference between a mile and a nautical mile. While drawing on the diagram, he explained how nautical miles are important when navigating flights.
Although in its early stages, Antonietti plans to host events under the Project Quesada umbrella at Beale AFB to increase the capabilities of the presentation and the number of students they can reach at a time.
“This is a small steppingstone for future projects,” Antonietti said. “We’re applying for funding and trying to get virtual reality goggles that are used at pilot training bases. We’re also trying to bring students like Civil Air Patrol, JROTC units, and underrepresented high school students to Beale Air Force Base.”
Project Quesada is committed to ensuring any student who dreams of becoming an Airman or pilot has support, regardless of their background.
“Before, I was thinking about the Navy because my grandma’s brother was in the Navy, but this presentation really showed me there’s another fun and cool branch,” Joshua said.