Future Warriors event showcases Total Force missions

  • Published
  • By Capt. Rachel Ingram
  • 445th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

In partnership with members of the Air National Guard, Army National Guard, Black Boys in Tech, Wright State University and other agencies, the 445th Airlift Wing welcomed about 50 students to Wright-Patterson Air Force Base April 6 for Future Warriors, an event organized by the 87th Aerial Port Squadron.

“The day was all designed to introduce the kids to the military and help them understand the opportunities they might have,” said Master Sgt. Richard Bullard, 87th APS special handling supervisor.

More than seven months in the making, Capt. Libya Binford, 87th APS passenger service officer in charge, first pitched the idea to squadron leadership after her sons completed a drone pilot course with Cincinnati-based nonprofit, Black Boys in Tech. The organization’s website stated the program provides interactive STEM experiences and mentorship opportunities within marginalized communities.

The course Binford’s sons attended included a field trip to the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force, spurring her memories of participating in similar outings during her childhood in New Orleans.

“I’ve never forgotten the field trips and mentorship programs I participated in as a child,” Binford said. “I just started thinking about how we could set the trajectory of kids’ lives through similar events—what if they had access to come on base and talk to actual pilots?”

As her vision grew, so did the list of partner agencies. A prior enlisted Army National Guard veteran, Binford had connections to former battle buddies who believed in her and the event she was organizing. By the time event day rolled around, she had successfully secured static displays of a C-17 Globemaster III; a mine-resistant, ambush protected vehicle; a Humvee; and a flat bed tactical vehicle, all of which were manned by uniformed service members representing various components of the Air Force, Army and Marine Corps.

“We just wanted to blow their minds,” she said.

BBIT, which is open to youth of all demographics, sent a large group of students and mentors to participate, and the organization also contributed funding to purchase raffle prizes to incentivize active participation. Additional students associated with the event organizers and volunteers attended as well.

In addition to hands-on aerial evacuation demonstrations aboard the C-17, several pilots sat on a panel interview to answer students’ questions, and multiple 445th AW squadrons set up interactive stations for students to try on firefighting and chemical warfare gear, see examples of fabricated aircraft parts, and learn more about police equipment and weapons.

“Even some of the chaperones and young adult ambassadors were checking out different parts of the aircraft or the equipment we had set up and asking, ‘Is this something I could do?’” said Senior Airman Meggie Samuel, 87th APS service representative.

To further illustrate how many opportunities and pathways to service exist, representatives from Wright State University’s ROTC program spoke to students, and in the second half of the day, the students toured the WSU campus and its engineering lab.

“For some kids, all they know about the military is what they see online, in movies or in video games,” said Senior Airman Cecily McWhorter, 87th APS passenger service representative, and a senior at WSU. “It’s important to invite them in and show them the morale and opportunities.”

While the students ranged from elementary school to college, many were in their teens and approaching the next stage of decisions regarding education and career.

“Even if they don’t join the Air Force, we can still make a positive impact with residual benefits,” Bullard said. “After this, 50 more kids have a better understanding of the Air Force, and more specifically, the Air Force Reserve. If each of these kids tells their friends and family, there will be sort of a butterfly effect.”

The themes and activities throughout the event highlighted skills like discipline, teamwork and attention to detail, Bullard added, noting the crossover into military culture.

“When you look into those kids’ faces and see, in real time, the impact the experience is having on them, you know you’re doing the right thing,” she continued.