April 6, 2003
As the sole student intern last summer at Ellington Field, Houston's Air National Guard base, David Benson had many duties: answering phones, making photocopies and -- oh, yeah -- helping launch a few F-16s.
Benson, a junior international studies major in the Baylor Air Force ROTC program, says the final week of his one-month internship was spent as part of a crew that assists pilots in determining aircraft readiness. "Once all of that is squared away, you taxi the jet out and salute the pilot," says Benson, who pursued the internship on his own. "That's what I did."
Not a bad end to the summer by any stretch of the imagination, but for Benson, who's dreamed of an Air Force career since he was a young boy, it was just one of many memorable moments.
"The military's job is to make people feel safe," he says. "Just being part of a unit that was keeping Houston and the rest of the country safe ... was a definite privilege."
Ellington Field -- the base from which F-16s were launched on Sept. 11, 2001, to accompany President George W. Bush to Washington, D.C. -- still remains on alert mission, says Benson, who witnessed an active scramble while he was there. Minutes after a siren sounded on base, multiple fighter jets were in the air. "That gave me goosebumps," he says. "Every day, those guys are out there doing their jobs. Unfortunately, it takes something like September 11 to get America to pay attention."
At Baylor this year, Benson helped train ROTC underclassmen, numbering about 170 students -- its highest enrollment since 1975. As both his senior year and the prospect of war in the world approach, his lifelong dream of a military career is stronger than ever.
"The Air Force really takes care of its people," he says. "I think God puts people in all professions and walks of life, including the profession of arms. That's where I'm supposed to serve."
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