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CNM Sky Warriors Take Flight During Balloon Fiesta

October 19, 2016 -- CNM’s Sky Warriors served as the chase crew for the college’s “official” hot air balloon, Sky Candy, during the recent Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta.
CNM Sky Warriors Take Flight During Balloon Fiesta

Oct 19, 2016

Sky Warriors is a program that allows CNM student military veterans to participate and learn about the operation of hot air ballooning, while developing camaraderie and a support group among fellow veterans. The group meets every Saturday.

During Albuquerque’s International Balloon Fiesta in early October, the Sky Warriors both flew in the balloon and served as the chase crew on the Fiesta weekends. Instead of lifting off the Fiesta field, however, the Sky Warriors took off from the CNM Westside Campus, said Rudy Garcia, CNM Dean of Students and long-time hot air balloon enthusiast.

“We used the Westside Campus as our launch site to take good footage of CNM's Westside Campus while ballooning and to avoid the large crowds on the fiesta field that could exasperate the anxiety of our veterans,” Garcia said. “Also, it provided more open space to practice flying and crewing.”

CNM’s video crew took both a time lapse video at CNM's Advanced Technology Center and of CNM’s hot air balloon flying over the Westside Campus.

Garcia established the Sky Warrior program about a year ago to help ease the students’ transition from military to civilian life, giving the students new ways to cope with the changes in their lives. The project lasts six weeks and works with seven to eight veterans at a time. Last year, 25 student veterans completed the program.

More than the camaraderie and having the opportunity to share their military experiences with people who have gone through similar experiences, the ballooning helps the veterans better deal with Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) and other physical consequences of war.

The balloon crew chief is David Walker, a Vietnam veteran who graduated from CNM last year and who currently serves as the Veterans Resource Center coordinator.

Sky Candy is owned by Diana and Randy  Myklebust, both balloon pilots. Diana is the administrative coordinator in the Dean of Students office.