|Contest Winner Takes Fantasy Flight In F-15 |
Contest Winner Takes Fantasy Flight In F-15
By Tech. Sgt. Sean E. Cobb, 325th Fighter Wing Public Affairs, August 28, 2000.
Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla. (AFPN) -- The hot rush of jet fuel-adrenaline and the crush of 7G's in an F-15 Eagle topped off the experience of a lifetime for Dale Zimmerman, winner of the Air Force component of the Yahoo! Fantasy Careers in Today's Military contest here Aug. 23-25.
Lt. Col. Jerry Kerby, 325th Operations Support Squadron weapons and training flight commander, completes a pre-flight on an F-15 Eagle with Dale Zimmerman, winner of the Air Force component of the Yahoo! Fantasy Careers in Today's Military contest. Zimmerman flew in the F-15 Aug. 24 as part of his visit to Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla. to experience Air Force life. (Photo by 2nd Lt. Christina N. Dunn)
Zimmerman, a 22-year-old from Junction City, Ore., won the opportunity to live his dream of being a fighter pilot for a few days by writing an essay about his desire to experience the thrill of flying the F-15.
"I was on the Air Force Web site -- I like to get on there to see what is going on in the Air Force -- and I saw there was link to be a fighter pilot for a day," Zimmerman said. "I clicked on that and it took me to the Yahoo! site, a co-sponsor of the contest. I wrote an essay and about the month later I was called and told I was a finalist. I had an interview -- and here I am right now," he said.
Winning the contest is the fulfillment of a dream for Zimmerman, a dream he has harbored since seeing his first F-15 at an air show when he was 8 years old, he said. "This is all so amazing, it hasn't seemed real," he said. "I've been pinching myself all day to see if it's a dream -- and it's real! I can't seem to wipe this grin off my face; I'm really excited."
Tech. Sgt. Wayne W. Warner, 325th Operations Group load standardization crew member, shows Dale Zimmerman, winner of the Air Force component of the Yahoo! Fantasy Careers in Today's Military contest, the universal ammo loader of the F-15 Eagle's M61-A1 Gatling gun. Zimmerman participated in a weapons load demonstration Aug. 24 as part of his visit to Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla. to experience Air Force life. (Photo by Tech. Sgt. Sean E. Cobb)
When asked why he would like to be a fighter pilot, Zimmerman had a ready answer. "It seems like a very rewarding career to be classified among the pilots that are here today," he said. "It's just the most worthwhile job I can think of. You can go fly for an airline or take another civilian aviation job, but it's not as rewarding as this because you're not protecting your country. It's something you can feel good about when you go to work."
So what did Zimmerman have to say about the flight itself? "This is the best experience I've had in my life," he said. "I was worried I'd get sick, but I didn't, and I'm proud of that. This is the most amazing thing I've ever done."
Senior Airman Matt P. Kurpaski, 95th Fighter Squadron life support journeyman, adjusts Dale Zimmerman's life support gear during parachute descent training, part of emergency egress training before he flew in an F-15 Eagle Aug. 24. Zimmerman was the winner of the Air Force component of the Yahoo! Fantasy Careers in Today's Military contest and experienced Air Force life during a visit to Tyndall Air Force Base Aug. 23-25. (Photo by 2nd Lt. Christina N. Dunn)
Lt. Col. Jerry Kerby, 325th Operations Support Squadron weapons and training flight commander and pilot for Zimmerman's orientation flight was also impressed, but for another reason. "I was real pleased with his performance," Kerby said. "He hung in there very well for over an hour of intense maneuvering and that can be extremely demanding physically -- he handled it very well.
"I think Dale was a good choice for this project. He's mature, interested in what we do and generally a good candidate for the Air Force," Kerby said. "Now all we need to do is sign him up, which he seems interested in doing."
Plenty of other people are talking about signing up too, according to Nancy Gallinghouse, Yahoo! Careers public relations manager. "This contest has been a huge success," she said. "We had over 3500 applicants, and out of those, 40 percent asked to be contacted by a recruiting officer. So this was not just a marketing gimmick, but a real, live campaign."
Besides being a recruiting home run for the Air Force, the contest has also been good for Yahoo! and something they would like to continue doing, said Gallinghouse. "When we launched this, we wanted to see how successful it would be," she said. "We (Yahoo!) are very pleased, and the office of the secretary of defense is pleased as well, so we both have been talking about doing it again next year. Then we may highlight some different jobs, and we look forward to it."
There will also be some follow-up of this project done by Yahoo!, said Gallinghouse. "People can go to www.careers.yahoo.com and click on the fantasy careers button, and that will bring them right to where we will keep some footage and different pictures as (the projects) are fulfilled," she said. People will probably be able to look for the Air Force one pretty quickly."
For those considering an Air Force career, Zimmerman has some final words of wisdom for America's young people. "Keep your goals set high," he said. "Finish school and get your diploma or degree, because you can't do this without those. Then you will be able to be here someday.
"You've got to visit a base if you can, see behind the scenes. This is a lot more than just flying a jet -- it's camaraderie with other people. It's about family."
Dale's mother, Lori Zimmerman echoed his sentiments. "To all the mothers of the world, if your kids want to go into the Air Force, let them go. This was a wonderful experience -- the Air Force is really great!"