Bandit Lt. mentors future generation

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Armando A. Schwier-Morales
  • 22nd Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs
Arriving at a new base can be difficult, but one McConnell Airman leaped not only into his job but also immersed himself in the community.

Though he arrived in September 2010, 1st Lt. Julio Collazos, 349th Air Refueling Squadron pilot, immediately began mentoring students from Kapaun Mount Carmel High School, teaching them about the many avenues available for them to join the Air Force.

"When I was growing up, I always wanted to be a pilot, but I didn't have someone to show me the way," said Lieutenant Collazos.

Without a mentor, Lieutenant Collazos enlisted in the Air Force, hoping to find a way to become a pilot. After 11 years in the Air Force, he accomplished his goal. He took this opportunity to mentor students as a chance to help others achieve their goals.

"I took the opportunity to help the community," he said. "I think it's important for military members to give back because the community gives so much to us."

Lieutenant Collazos learned from Brian Locke, 349th ARS Mission Planning Systems Support representative, that several students in his wife's class seemed interested in the Air Force. Hearing this, Lieutenant Collazos decided to take the students under his wing.

"Most of these students know what they want to do in the Air Force, they just don't know how to go about accomplishing it," said Mr. Locke. "A mentorship program at McConnell would be a tremendous benefit to the local community and our Air Force."

With help from his squadron, Lieutenant Collazos gathered officers from all the possible commissioning routes and presented those paths to Ryan Lindsay and Brandon Williams, students at Kapaun Mount Carmel High School.

"I think it's fantastic that Lieutenant Collazos has provided such a great opportunity for my son because he is definitely interested in the Air Force," said Kelly Lindsay, Ryan's mother.

The mentoring program that Lieutenant Collazos started is a small part of a larger volunteering program at the 349th ARS, to include supporting the Big Brothers Big Sisters of Sedgwick County.

"Lieutenant Collazos just arrived at the 349th ARS from Undergraduate Pilot Training, but he is already making a huge impact in our philanthropic outreach programs," said Lt. Col. Andre Briere, 349th ARS commander. "He is directly impacting the lives of these young people and steering them toward a path of accomplishment and service."

Lieutenant Collazos hopes to expand the mentoring program by adding enlisted career paths and eventually making it a base-wide project.