Looking to get into Aviation? The NC Air National Guard can help

STEM education provides students with essential critical thinking skills that will be valuable no matter what career path they explore. However, Sullenberger Aviation Museum (SAM) takes STEM learning a step further by working to introduce kids of all ages to careers across the aviation sector. Our goal is to inspire the next generation to explore these exciting and high-paying careers. SAM has a vested interest in making these career connections for historically excluded and economically disadvantaged communities. 

Robust storytelling and community partnerships (through our Flight Forward Program) are two of the main ways we work to achieve this mission. Ensuring inclusivity and representation in our storytelling is paramount in making sure everyone sees themselves in aviation and aerospace careers. 

In this issue of Wingspan, we highlight a few of the oral histories featured in the ‘Meet the Carolinas’ Aerospace Community’ exhibit in the Aviation Society Gallery. Each of these aviation professionals shares something in common: the Air National Guard. 

Working for the Air National Guard is a unique blend of pride and commitment. You serve your country, while maintaining a civilian career. Balancing the demands of civilian life with the responsibilities of serving in the Air National Guard can be challenging, but the sense of purpose and camaraderie among colleagues makes it immensely rewarding. 

Our Collections Team interviewed several Air National Guard soldiers to learn more about their story: why they joined, how their life changed, what they found rewarding, among other parts of their journey. From the exhilaration of flight missions to the quiet satisfaction of supporting humanitarian efforts, the diverse experiences within the Air National Guard create a tapestry of emotions unlike any other workplace.  

1st Lt. John Jackson, a full-time C-17 pilot grew up in a small town, Valley, Alabama, and got into aviation while being an active-duty Air Force soldier and asking fellow ranking officers about how he could become a pilot.  

A1C Rielly Coolidge, a loadmaster with the 156th Airlift Squadron, grew up in New York. Her dad, who was an F-16 pilot, now retired, piqued her interest in the Air National Guard. She is a full-time student studying Elementary Education at UNCC. 

Capt. Kevin Accomazzo, a C-17 pilot, took the recruiter route into the Air National Guard right after school. His father was an F-4 pilot during Desert Storm and has been an enormous influence and his inspiration for joining the Air Guard. 

Maj. Amanda Deyton, a flight nurse for the 156th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron, has a passion for helping others. She decided to join the Air Guard after the September 11th attacks. Speaking with family members about their experiences also helped to guide her to join the service. 

Want to learn more about these Air National Guard members (and 30+ more aviators)? Come see the “Meet the Carolinas’ Aerospace Community” when the new SAM opens this summer.

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