Miss North Carolina Arlie Honeycutt sits in the cockpit of a 916th Air Refueling Wing KC-135R with Mr. Jim Lee on Oct. 18, 2012. Lee and Honeycutt participated in the wing's civic leader orientation flight program. Honeycutt recorded her People's Choice video for Miss America at the 916th ARW in late August. (USAF courtesy photo)
12/6/2012 - SEYMOUR JOHNSON AIR FORCE BASE, N.C. -- It's an unlikely pairing.
A beauty queen and a military organization.
But both have long histories and mutually-beneficial missions.
In August, Miss North Carolina Arlie Honeycutt reached out to the 916th Air Refueling Wing to help her prepare a two-minute infomercial on her state. Honeycutt, a 20-year-old native of Garner, N.C., competes for the Miss America crown in January 2013. As part of the competition, the 53 contestants are asked to put together a video about what makes their state special.
Honeycutt decided to focus on the military.
"The military presence in North Carolina is so strong and the support for the military in North Carolina is really wonderful so I definitely wanted to make sure we pointed that out when talking about why Miss North Carolina should eventually be Miss America," said Honeycutt.
With the help of 916th aircrews and maintainers she filmed on the Reserve wing's ramp after getting a short tour of the KC-135R. She also took some time to visit the maintenance back shops and learn about the work done there.
"I got to hop up on a huge air refueling plane which is amazing," said Honeycutt. "It's over 50 years old which in and of itself, the fact that it is still working and flies today really speaks to how fantastic our crews are that work on these planes."
But her time in August was just an introduction to the wing. In mid-October she came back to see the air-to-air refueling mission first-hand.
She flew aboard a Stratotanker along with other civic and community leaders from across the state and learned a lot about what it takes to operate a jet that is nearly 55 years old.
While the crown she represents is 75-years old this year, the newness of being Miss NC was evident. She spent time talking with community leaders about her obligations and preparation for Miss America and posed for many photos with guests and crew alike.
The highlight for many on a refueling mission is when the fighters pull into view under the tanker. Honeycutt had another surprise in store.
As the F-15E Strike Eagle pulled up to the tanker at 20,000 feet, the weapons systems operator held up a signed picture of Honeycutt. She was amazed.
One civic leader on-board turned that event into a special memory for everyone and presented both the tanker and fighter crews with autographed collages of Honeycutt's day in the air.
Honeycutt enjoyed her day visiting the base and flying with the Red Eagles, Totin' Tigers and Rockets. Her time at the base helps her spread the word throughout the state about what the Air Force and Air Force Reserve do on a day basis.
"I just have to thank them for their hard work," she said. "We talked about how they are working whether it's a holiday, whether it's rain or shine, if it's 100 degrees in the desert, they're out there and they are getting the job done. Thank you for giving back to your country I so appreciate your service."
Editor's note: The Miss America pageant, which started in 1921, will be televised live from Las Vegas on ABC on January 12, 2013.