Local teen keeps filling his ‘bucket list’
By Christopher Calkins, 45th Space Wing Public Affairs
/ Published January 05, 2011
Patrick AFB, Fl. -- For some teenagers, playing in the high school marching band, wind ensemble and jazz band, being a member of the junior high lacrosse team, taking part in ministry activities with his church and maintaining high grades while taking Advanced Placement and Honors Classes at Viera High School would seem to pretty much fill up their day.
Not for Jeffrey Wood. Last Sunday the 16-year-old sophomore "checked the block" on yet another item in his personal "bucket list."
He soloed a Cessna 172 over Merritt Island with his Civil Air Patrol instructor, Maj. Scott Martin.
Pretty impressive stuff.
"His goal was to Solo by the end of the year. He missed it by a couple of days, but Sunday morning, he achieved the first step towards becoming a licensed pilot when he completed his first Solo in a Civil Air Patrol Aircraft," said Tony Wood, a Department of Defense employee here on Patrick AFB, a former graduate from the U.S. Naval Academy and a retired Naval Flight Officer.
"Civil Air Patrol provides motivated teens an excellent opportunity to work toward their license. He is taking advantage of that," said his proud papa.
For Jeffrey, he is proof positive the acorn really doesn't fall too far from the tree.
"My father was a cadet back when he was my age and his stories and the opportunities lured me in to trying CAP," Jeffrey said.
He is convinced other young men and women can benefit from the experience as well.
"I think they will become more mature and more independent people, as well as better citizens and (they) will have a greater knowledge of aerospace and flight. In 20 years, I plan to see myself as a professional pilot either flying for the airlines or in the Military.
"Don't ever let anything or anybody keep you from your dreams. If you want it then you will get it as long as you don't give up," he said with the confidence not all teenagers can muster.
And going solo wasn't the only thing he did that was noteworthy.
Last June, Jeffrey was one of 37 teens nation-wide who were selected to attend the U.S. Air Force Academy Team Aviation Camp, held in Colorado Springs, Colo.
He was the first-ever youth selected from Patrick Air Force Base to attend the camp.
He also recently earned the Billy Mitchell Award in Civil Air Patrol. No easy achievement, considering there are 16 achievements, not counting physical fitness, along with moral and ethical activities.
Before long, Jeffrey will be making final plans for college. Right now, he plans on applying to all the service academies, but makes no qualms about where he hopes to be accepted.
"My top choice of the service academies is the United States Naval Academy. My father is a graduate and I want to attend the most prestigious academy and be a Naval aviator," he said with conviction.
It's that acorn falling from the tree thing again.
(Editor's Note: For more information on the local Civil Air Patrol Program, please call 321-494-6395)