Cadets enjoy chance to learn from industry leaders
Apirl 20, 2023
Air Force Academy cadets interacted with space leaders while viewing more than 200 space-related exhibits during the 38th annual Space Symposium in Colorado Springs.
Dozens of cadets — some of whom plan to join the Space Force — attended the symposium which has grown into the premier U.S. space policy event, attracting more than 10,000 space professionals from around the world.
Cadets also manned a booth during the four-day symposium where they shared information about designing, building, testing and flying cadet-built satellites.
Lt. Col. Heather Greatting-Dufaud ’05, an instructor in USAFA’s astronautical engineering department, is grateful that the Colorado Springs-based Space Foundation — which hosts the Space Symposium — gives USAFA a free booth where cadets can talk about the FalconSAT Program.
“This event is an amazing opportunity to get our cadets out to talk with industry and learn what’s out there in the space industry and get them motivated to be officers and to lead,” Greatting-Dufaud says.
Astronautical engineering major C2C Abigail McCue, who attended the Space Symposium last year and again this year, says the gathering helps cadets understand how their studies apply to real-world challenges.
“To see all of this cool technology really puts into perspective why we’re doing hours of homework,” she says. “It’s to produce and get to work with all these amazing people that come here. For anyone with my major, it’s kind of like going to Disneyland.”
Fellow astro major C2C Sonja Nelson says she enjoyed talking with people and picking up some of the free promotional material many of the exhibitors were giving away.
“We haven’t had exposure to so many space industries at the Academy, but we have learned a lot about them,” Nelson says. “It’s super cool because you actually get to talk to them firsthand and learn what they’re all about.”
As cadets visited exhibits, they inevitability bumped into USAFA grads working in the space industry including Col. (Ret.) Kenny Robinson ’82 and Maj. Gen. (Ret.) Jack Catton Jr. ’76.
Col. Robinson is the chief diversity officer at Northrop Grumman, where he oversees development and culture while also running the ethics and wellness programs.
“Nothing's more exciting than to see the next generation of leaders ready to inspire and make a difference in the future,” he says of his interaction with cadets.
Gen. Catton, a consultant for Jacobs, says having cadets attend the Space Symposium is a win-win.
“The cadets without a doubt represent the future of our country,” Gen. Catton says. “It's good to see them bright-eyed, bushy-tailed and excited to be here. It’s also good for industry to see them because they will understand the future is in good hands and that America is going to be okay.”
Maj. Gen. John Olson ’92, mobilization assistant to the Chief of Space Operations and Space Force, describes the Space Symposium as “profession speed dating for us in the space community. A lot of good work gets done here.”
He says it’s also great for cadets. Gen. Olson has two sons currently at the Academy — C2C John Olson and C3C Joseph Olson.
“This is an opportunity for cadets to not only hear from our senior most leaders, like the secretary of the Air Force and the chief of Space Operations, as well as our international partners and allies, but equally important, they get to see where the cutting edge of industry and academia and our interagency partners are.”