CHANNEL ISLANDS AIR NATIONAL GUARD STATION, Calif. --
U.S. Air National Guardsmen from the 146th Airlift Wing (146AW) provided a base tour for students attending a summer camp with St. Stephen’s Academy based in La Puente, California, July 25, 2019. Established to increase awareness and understanding of the Air National Guard’s federal and state missions, base tours provide students and their teachers an opportunity to witness the 146 AW missions close up.
Students received tours of the wing’s C-130J aircraft, wore night vision goggles used by the pilots of the 115th Airlift Squadron, toured an aircraft hangar, sat in seats of large construction equipment, and learned how to rig parachutes.
Colonel Keith Ward, Commander of the 146th Airlift Wing, welcomed the 57 young students and their chaperones as they walked inside a large training room where he explains the wing’s mission and offers to answer questions from the students.
A student raises his hand and innocently asks, “Can people die in the military?”
It’s a brutally honest and innocent question from the very young student.
Ward responds, “We train our airmen so that they are ready to protect and save lives. They prepare so when they respond to any call for help, they have a plan. This is the best way to mitigate that no one dies.”
“How many of you remember the fires burning in California recently?” Ward asks. Many students begin raising their hands.
“Well we work with the U.S. Forest Service and other firefighting agencies that contain wildfires across the United States with our MAFFS equipped (Modular Airborne Fire Fighting System) aircraft. Our primary mission is to be ready to integrate wherever we are needed, but our state missions like our MAFFS mission allow us to help keep California safe too,” said Ward.
Mrs. June Davis, an instructor traveling with the St. Stephen’s academy S.T.E.A.M summer camp, believes that programs like base tours will give students a better idea of the missions the military has that protect life.
“We have students here from our Leadership and Confidence Military Program who now get to see what it’s like to serve in the military. A lot of times when the children think of the military, their minds immediately go to war you know. But it’s like what Colonel Ward said, the military is here to protect and serve. It’s good they get to go on these types of tours to help show them that side of the military,” said Davis.
“It’s really exciting, the students are really enjoying themselves. As an educator I love the hands-on experience the students are receiving here, giving the children the opportunity to handle and touch the equipment, see the aircraft they use fighting wildfires and really get the whole experience. It’s wonderful,” said Davis.
Unlike the Active Duty Air Force and Air Force Reserve, the ANG responds to state activation orders from the Governor. This means that when a regional or local disaster strikes, ANG units like the 146 AW can be called on to respond across the spectrum of emergency response, civil support or humanitarian relief missions with its Airmen and airlift capabilities such as transporting the sick and injured, or delivering supplies and aid to those in need.
According to Capt. Solveig Listerud, 146 AW Executive Officer and base tour coordinator, providing base tours help build and foster relationships with the local community.
“We provide these types of requested base tours with the hope of providing a window for the public to see the unique and positive stories of our Airmen serving their state and community through the Air National Guard,” said Listerud.
Listerud enjoys the opportunity to educate and positively differentiate the ANG to guests visiting the base for the first time.
“Sharing our story of who we are and what we do in the ANG with the local community is really rewarding. Getting the opportunity to answer their questions is a huge part of connecting the dots about what we do, and I’m really grateful to be a part of that.” said Listerud.