From the wild blue yonder

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CHS grad, USAF airman speaks to Boys & Girls Club

By Nancy Kennedy

INVERNESS — Leading up to Superheroes Week at the Inverness Boys & Girls Club, the kids got to meet and ask questions of a hero in training, Airman First Class Brandon Watson.

Watson, 19, a Crystal River High School graduate, is home on leave before he’s off into the wild, blue yonder for his duty station in England where he will serve as a crew chief airplane mechanic on an F-15 fighter jet.

“My dad was in the Coast Guard for seven years, but he always said he thought the Air Force was better,” Watson said. “I used to race at the Citrus County Speedway, and that’s what I loved growing up, always working out in the shop with my dad as a mechanic. I didn’t know anything about airplanes, but I thought it would be a really cool job.”

He told the kids about being nervous his first day, how as soon as you get off the bus the training instructors yell at you. He told about climbing a ladder backward during the obstacle course and swinging on a rope over water.

Watson described how he got up early, marched in formation, learned all about planes and how to take orders.

The kids were full of questions: Do you miss your family? (“All the time — that’s the hardest part.”) Do you sleep there? (“Yes, in a dorm that looks like hotel rooms.”) Can you have pets? (“No, not in the dorm.”) Did you ever shoot a machine gun? (“Yes.”) When you go to England, will you get to see princesses? (“I hope so.”) Do you have an indoor hot tub? (Laughed, then said, “No.”)

Watson’s sister, Rachele Watson, who works at the Boys & Girls Club, said her brother has overcome a lot to get to where he is now. At 15, he was riding a dirt bike and was hit and run over by a truck. Despite pins in his arm, he fought to be able to enlist at 17.

“He enlisted when he was still in high school,” she said, “and he had to do boot camp training once a week in Brooksville. He had to prove that he could do it, and he did.”

Civil Air Patrol cadet John Korycki, 17, was also at the club talking about serving in the CAP, which is a stepping stone to the U.S. Air Force and is open to kids and young adults, from ages 12 to 21.

Club director Donna McClimont said they like to bring in people to talk about their careers and opportunities, to give kids something to think about and aspire to.

“In July, we’re going to have a Superheroes Week,” she said. “We’ll have Trooper Todd Cloud visit, we’ll have a fire truck here, and even ‘Caged Nation,’ a (mixed martial arts) group.”