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Civil Air Patrol cadets showcase skills during DIA performance

JOINT BASE ANACOSTIA-BOLLING, D.C — Plenty of distinguished visitors come through the hallways of the Defense Intelligence Agency, but not many of them have to get their parents’ permission first. That was the case when cadets from the Civil Air Patrol’s National Capital Wing spent the day at DIA Headquarters, Oct. 10.

Earlier this year, Deborah Melancon, a strategic management officer with the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, reached out to DIA leadership to see if the Agency’s color guard members would work with and mentor the cadets.

Lt. Gen. Robert Ashley Jr., DIA director, and Chief Master Sgt. Benjamin “Jake” Higginbotham, the Agency’s command senior enlisted leader, supported the idea and extended an invitation to the cadets.

When the Civil Air Patrol cadets, comprised of high school students from Joint Base Andrews, Maryland, and Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling, Washington, D.C., arrived at DIA, they were greeted by the Agency’s color guard. The two groups spent the next few hours getting to know each other and rehearsing for their joint performance in front of Ashley, Higginbotham and members of the DIA workforce in the Museum Lobby later that day.

While the group only spent a short time together, Melancon noticed the potential for a lasting impact for the teenagers.

“I really hope the cadets use this opportunity to see beyond the scope of their daily life,” she said. “This is a really great chance for them to pair with people from many different backgrounds and experiences, to see all of the different branches of the military come together and to see how the military and civilians work together at DIA.

“Hopefully, this opens up a new perspective to see just how many possibilities are available to them,” Melancon added.

As Staff Sgt. Adonis Alsay, noncommissioned officer in charge of the DIA color guard, spent time with the cadets, the 25-year-old couldn’t help but think back to a decade earlier when he was in their shoes.

“I can really identify with these kids,” he said. “When I see them, I see a lot of myself. As we’ve worked with them this morning, I can see their potential and how excited they are.”

Alsay went on to say that he hoped this event was the start of a new partnership, allowing DIA service members to regularly provide guidance and support to the cadets throughout their young careers.

“As a member of the color guard, we always enjoy an opportunity to participate in events like this,” Alsay said. “We love being involved in the community, and it’s humbling to have a group like the Civil Air Patrol reach out to collaborate with us.”

Two of the biggest highlights from the joint presentation included an armed exhibition by Cadet Chief Master Sgt. Dean Courtney, who impressed Ashley with his rifle-spinning abilities, and the singing of the national anthem by Cadet 2nd Lt. Michaela Melancon.

“It was a little scary, and I was pretty nervous because it was someone else’s rifle. And I didn’t want to drop it,” Courtney said. “But these are things you have to adapt to and overcome when you’re part of the honor guard.”

As an auxiliary of the U.S. Air Force, the Civil Air Patrol’s mission is to search for and find lost people, provide comfort in times of disaster and work to keep the homeland safe, according to the organization’s website. Its 60,000 members selflessly devote their time, energy and expertise toward the well-being of their communities, while also promoting aviation and related fields through aerospace and science, technology, engineering and math education and helping shape future leaders through its cadet program.

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