By: RJ Kaminski
Air Force Staff Sergeant, Ryan Mitchell, enjoyed a “once in a lifetime” experience, as he described it, last month as he flew in the cockpit of an F-15. The 23-year-old crew chief of the 159th Fighter Wing at Belle Chase Air Force base was awarded the opportunity after winning airman of the year.
“I couldn’t even fathom that I would get this opportunity,” Mitchell said. “That’s how rare it is.”
Named Airman of the Year for the Air National Guard in the state of Louisiana, he will be compete against airmen of the year from winners from in every other state.
A current senior at Tulane University, Mitchell has been exposed to the military for the greater part of his life. An F-15 crew chief, his respect for the aircraft he works on is equivalent to the respect he shares for active duty servicemen and women as well as those who have served in the past.
“There’s an incredible community of veterans that really need help, so I thought it would be an incredible opportunity to spread some awareness [of the Shootout for Soldiers] and maybe we could touch some lives.”
His attempt to spread that awareness isn’t just in the photo he took with the Shootout for Soldiers towel pictured above, but also talking to fellow servicemen that may be interested in the event. Mitchell has had several experiences with friends who have suffered through the very issues the Shootout for Soldiers strives to bring awareness to.
“I have had friends who’ve committed suicide,” Mitchell said.“It’s such a huge issue that civilians are adequately aware of, but struggle with useful approaches for prevention and resolution.”
Mitchell hopes that more civilians begin to recognize the significance of the problems that those returning home from war may encounter. He supports the Shootout for Soldiers, despite never playing lacrosse, because of our mission to bring attention to significant issues veterans face upon returning home.
“I think getting the awareness out that you guys are could be a really good preventative measure to avoid that.”