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Student learns to fly fighter plane
Fighter Plane pic
Brooks Fulford displays a picture of the graduating class of the 2011 Aviation Challenge, of which he was a part, and a model fighter jet similar to the one he flew in a simulator at the camp in Huntsville, Ala. - photo by James G. Wolfe Jr. Dawson Community News

Brooks Fulford is not your average student-athlete.

A rising sophomore at Dawson County High, Fulford served as the starting varsity goalkeeper last season. He and Sam Edwards combined to set two school records, one for fewest goals allowed and another for most shutouts.

After a season like that, most high-school athletes would spend the summer obsessing about their chosen sport.

But Fulford chose another route.

He learned how to fly a fighter plane.

Fulford recently attended the Aviation Challenge at the United States Space and Rocket Center, home of Space Camp and NASA's official Visitor Information Center for Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala.

While there, Fulford spent the week training with a team that flew a simulated F/A-18 fighter jet.

In typical teenage fashion, Fulford summed up his experience by saying: "It was pretty cool."

Fulford said he has no plans to join the military or to earn his pilot's license, but went to the camp because "it sounded like a lot of fun."

"I've been to the camp the past two years, but this year I went to the Mach III level, which is the highest one," Fulford said.

The Mach III participants learn land and water survival skills, while mastering Top Gun flying maneuvers in the flight simulator.

But Fulford believes that the lesson he learned at the camp that will most benefit him in the future involved teamwork and encouragement.

"There was a 14-foot pole with a 1-foot diameter platform on top that we had to climb," Fulford said. "It was really tough and everybody had to help encourage everyone else to make it up."

Fulford said the team-building exercise taught him to be more vocal in his encouragement, which he hopes will show up this soccer season.

Despite his trip, and a church mission trip, Fulford will still spend a lot of time on the pitch before school soccer practice begins in the spring.

A member of the United Football Academy's U19 team which plays at Rock Creek Park, Fulford hopes to one day earn a college athletic scholarship.

"But there's a long way to go before that," Fulford said. "A lot of work to do."

Born in Sugar Hill, Fulford's family moved to Dawson County in 2000. His father, Steve, is a landscaper for Jordan's Group and his mother, Kristi, works for TSA. The family attends First Baptist Church where they are "pretty involved," according to Brooks.