By Ann Patton
Academy Spirit staff
Scott Kleinschmidt didn’t just toss out the first pitch at the Falcons’ match against San Diego State April 9. He fired it across home plate like the Little League All Star that he is.
Scott became the Academy’s newest Cadet for a Day during activities April 8 through Saturday.
Cadet Squadron 06 sponsored the visit for Scott, his mother, Jennifer, and his father, Fred, in cooperation with the Colorado Make-A-Wish Foundation. The family lives in Colorado Springs.
“They (the cadets) are really friendly, caring and down to earth and funny,” the 14-year-old said after his visit. “I had a blast.”
Events opened the evening of April 8 with dinner off base. Bright and early the next morning, the family and cadets enjoyed breakfast, a tour of the control tower and an aerobatic demonstration on the airfield. Compliments of the Academy’s Aero Club, Scott got to hop into the seat of a Cessna for a trip over Garden of the Gods and elsewhere.
The 98th Flying Training Squadron then opened its doors to the group for a multimedia review of Academy parachuting, a tour of the facility and a demonstration of how parachutes are packed and operated in the air. The Indoor Training Facility gave Scott a real-life feel of being hooked into a harness and of exiting the Twin Otter, which parachuting cadets use for practice and demonstrations.
After hanging out with squad mates, Scott led the noon meal formation, and he and his family enjoyed lunch on the Staff Tower in Mitchell Hall. The afternoon brought the baseball game, a meeting with the Warrior Transition Battalion, a visit to the flight simulators and flag presentation after retreat. That evening, cadets treated the family to music, food and games at the Lawrence Paul Pavilion.
Saturday morning, Scott and family viewed a demonstration from the 10th Security Forces Squadron’s military working dogs, a tour of the fire station and the Founder’s Day Parade. Along the way he collected coins, patches and other souvenirs from all over the Academy. The squadron donated his regulation flight suit and jacket.
The seventh-grader at Cheyenne Mountain Junior High School has completed intensive therapy for leukemia and is now in the maintenance stage of treatment, Mr. Kleinschmidt said. Scott is doing well and is in remission.
Mr. and Mrs. Kleinschmidt met in Korea, where both were stationed while in the Air Force. She is now retired, and he is now in civil service.
Mrs. Kleinschmidt described her son as funny with a good sense of humor and a cross-country athlete who “has a lot of natural talent and ability.”
“He is sharp as a tack, impressive and very thoughtful,” she said.
Squadrons vie for the opportunity to sponsor the four children who become cadets for a day each year, two in the spring and two in the fall. Cadet 1st Class Solange Eddy of CS 06 said the squadron was eager to sponsor Scott.
“We’re a big family, and we wanted to have three more members,” she explained. “We stick up for each other and reach out to others. Everybody’s involved, and we’re really excited.”
Colorado’s spring weather cooperated for all the activities. Past cadets for a day have had Aero Club flights canceled or rescheduled due to weather. Aero Club manager Ed Ponder said the limits for flying are a maximum crosswind of 15 knots with a ceiling at 1,500 feet – conditions which can, and have, deteriorated rapidly for other visits. But he added the club’s 170 or so members, including cadets, enjoy the opportunity to host youngsters from Make-A-Wish.
“We feel it is well worthwhile,” he said.
It topped Scott’s list of fun things during the weekend, along with the military working dog demonstration, during which he donned a protective bite suit and served as a “bad guy” for a patrol dog.
“It is really interesting to see what they do and how they are trained,” he said.
Wish granter Maggie Appenzeller accompanied both the family and cadets.
“The cadets like to be with the families, and they do a really super job,” she said, pointing out their energy, enthusiasm and spirit cadets bring to the program.
The program is “an experience of a lifetime” and a real boost for cadets for a day, she added.
Cadet 2nd Class Keenan Ryner, who has 270 jumps to his credit in three years, said he especially enjoys sharing his experiences as an Academy parachutist with the Make-A-Wish youngsters.
“This is one of the things at the Academy that puts a smile on everyone’s face,” he said. “It’s quite an honor.”
Scott was the last cadet for a day for Cadet 1st Class Lauren McKinnon, cadet in charge for the program, before she graduates and heads to Undergraduate Pilot Training in May.
“I’m excited to graduate, but this is the best part of my Academy career,” the cadet with CS 40 said. “It’s a bittersweet feeling.”