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National Conclave highlights excellence in Air Force

Twelve students represented Fresno State in the 2015 Silver Wings and Arnold Air Society National Conclave last week in Chicago, where hundreds of students prepared for civic engagement, personal development and an opportunity to serve in the U.S. Air Force.

“It’s been an amazing experience,” said Silver Wings region president Priscilla Apodaca, part of the dozen who spent part of their spring break at the conference. “The power of networking is vastly important. The guest speakers we’ve had have been inspirational, really top-level military personnel.”

Apodaca said that she was honored to participate in the national conclave and that the opportunity to interact with other students as well as notable personnel helped her realize the importance of the work Silver Wings does back home.

“I feel like our chapter is so used to working by ourselves and it’s really great to see that we aren’t the only ones doing the work. We get to connect with people across the nation,” Apodaca said.

Apodaca also won the Ann T. Hawkins Award for her outstanding service as the Silver Wings’ Region X president.

Silver Wings, along with the Arnold Air Society, focuses on community service, civic education and professional development about national defense.  It also provides networking opportunities between college-level Air Force candidates.

Guest speakers from the national conclave included Brig. Gen. Dan Woodward, a former air staff director of regional affairs, former Air Staff Director of Regional Affairs Brigadier General Dan Woodward,  Gen. Paul Selva, commander of U.S. Transportation Command, and Maj. Gen. Margaret Woodward, the Air Force’s first female air attack commander.

“Leading is what you are expected to do,” said Air Mobility Command commander Gen. Darren McDew. “There are 1000 different ways of what you might call success, but most leadership lessons are learned before you are a major.”

McDew gave advice to new cadets, as well as describing his own influence for joining the military.

At age 12, McDew witnessed POWs coming home from war, and said someday future cadets will be role models for other 12-year-olds, too.

“I told myself I will wear this uniform for them,” McDew said. “I became an airman. I was born an airman.”

Speaker-General Mark Barrett spoke of the “air mindedness” of those who serve in the Air Force—airmen who think differently from others.

“In a few years, many of you will be leaders of the Air Force,” said Lt Gen Stephen W Wilson, Commander Air Force Global Strike Command. “It doesn’t end when you get commissioned. That’s when it starts. That’s when learning starts.”

Barrett highlighted the importance of integrity within the Air Force — speaking of service before self and excellence in all that they do.

“It’s not about reciting our core values. It’s about living our core values on and off duty,” Barrett said.

Apodaca noted the personal import Silver Wings has had on her life, allowing her to be more connected to her community. She also said that Silver Wings is currently in a recruitment semester.

“I had an admiration for the military and air force specifically, and I wanted to be a cadet, but I wasn’t able to continue,” Apodaca said. “I was talking to some of the people, and they told me about Silver Wings at Fresno State.They told me that if you want to help out and really be connected with something, this is your chance. The more people that I met, it just made me want to stay. It made me see the bigger picture.”