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Aviation is soaring to new heights in western Colorado after top military officials visited Western Colorado Community College’s two-year aviation technology program. On June 23, CMU’s Student Veterans Association and WCCC aviation students met with high-ranking military officials from the United States Navy. 

“The highlight of my visit here in Grand Junction as part of Navy Week will be meeting with these youngsters who are the future of aviation,” said Colorado native, Rear Admiral Bret Batchelder,  who was thrilled to be back in his home state talking with WCCC’s future pilots.

Rear Admiral Batchelder spoke with students to discuss the importance of their role within the aviation community and how remembering the past is beneficial for the future.

“The lessons they are learning here are based on over a century of aviation experience. Civil aviation has come a long way,” said Batchelder.

Captain Fred Goldhammer added that in order to continue making giant leaps in aviation, "We need to have qualified and educated people to keep that technology and discovery going."

According to Goldhammer, what was once missing in the aviation world, is now available to Coloradans from all over are the state, thanks to schools like WCCC. “The iron is hot right now and programs like what you guys have here at Western Colorado Community College and the many other similar programs like it around the country, didn’t exist when I was growing up. So it’s pretty neat to see these opportunities open up…”

Originally from Denver, WCCC aviation technology student Catherine Peeples embraced that opportunity by enrolling in the program.

“Everybody here is like family. We have a really good relationship with the instructors. All of us students get together at the library about five times a week to study and support one another through the semester. I love the program and the people in it.”

Peeples, who was inspired by flight at a young age by her father, wants to follow in his footsteps after graduation: first the U.S. Air Force, and later, a commercial airline pilot.

As the first ever Navy Week on the Western Slope wraps up, WCCC students and CMU’s Student Veterans Association are gearing up for the Grand Junction Airshow this weekend. They’ll be at the Grand Junction Airport Saturday and Sunday volunteering and supporting the United States Navy’s Blue Angels.

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Written by Kelsey Coleman