Southside JROTC cadets fly as part of orientation program

Published 6:29 pm Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Nine students from Southside High School had an opportunity Tuesday to fly high above the city of Selma as they took to the sky in a Cessna 182P Rescue aircraft.

The students are cadets in the Air Force Junior ROTC Cadet Flight Orientation Program. For many of them, this was their first time aboard an aircraft.

“It was very exciting,” said Southside sophomore Rodkeiro Pullom. “For it to be my first time flying, I was nervous, but I was excited when we took off because I never had the experience of flying before, so I was happy and scared.”

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Pullom said after high school he plans to join the Air Force, so having the experience Tuesday was the first of many times he hopes to be in the cockpit of a plane.

“Flying the plane, it was totally different than I thought it was,” he said. “I thought it was going to be so simple just turning the controllers left and right, but I learned there is more to it. It’s very difficult.”

The flying is done by qualified Civil Air Patrol Pilots, and Tuesday’s pilot was Gary King.

The instructor of the Southside Junior ROTC, Lt. Col. Steve Ruiz, said giving the students the opportunity to fly is something he doesn’t take for granted.

“It gives me a really great feeling to get these young people to fly because otherwise there would be no other opportunity for them to fly like that,” Ruiz said. “To me, it’s just the opportunity of a lifetime.”

Pullom said his experience pushed him even more toward being a pilot, and he is glad he had the opportunity.

“Me going into the Air Force, I want to be a fighter pilot because the experience I had yesterday, thanks to Colonel Ruiz and Mr. Gary, I definitely want to fly a plane,” Pullom said. “I had a wonderful experience of doing it for the first time ever.”

While up in the air, Pullom said a lot of things were going through his mind, but through the nerves, he was just excited to have the chance to fly.

“I was like oh my God, we are so high off the ground. Like wow,” Pullom said.

Since 2008, 97 cadets from Southside have had the opportunity to fly through the program, and Ruiz believes that might be the most in the state of Alabama.

“I think it’s tremendous. They don’t have to pay a dime for it; it’s totally free to them,” Ruiz said.

“It’s an opportunity that they will never get anywhere else.”

Tamara Minor, a junior, also had the opportunity to fly Tuesday.

Although she has plans to attend medical school after graduation, she still had a great time getting to be a passenger in the plane.

“It was very exciting. I had fun,” Minor said. “I was a little nervous when I was asked to fly, but overall I had fun.”

The Cessna 182P Rescue aircraft is a four passenger plane that travels approximately 1,000 nautical miles on a single tank of gas.