DYESS AIR FORCE BASE, Texas – --
The 317th Airlift Wing and 7th Bomb Wing held a public outreach event, Eyes Above the Horizon, for approximately 120 local students at Dyess Air Force Base, Texas, May 5, 2018,
Eyes Above the Horizon was originally created by Legacy Flight Academy, which is a nonprofit organization ran by U.S. military members whose goal is to expose local students to science, technology, engineering, mathematics and aerospace careers, as well as know, live and grow the legacy of the Tuskegee Airmen.
“Through a bigger picture, it is my goal to intentionally invest in the students,” said Capt. Boston McClain, C-130J Super Hercules instructor pilot. “I want to show them that we are a large community that cares about their well-being and wants to go above and beyond to ensure they are successful.”
The event gave the students, ages 10 to 17 years old, the opportunity to become familiar with aerospace through incentive flights in Cessnas provided by the Experimental Aircraft Association. The STEM-related career fields were presented by Dyess professionals in units on base such as bioenvironmental engineering, public health, fire department, avionics and explosive ordnance disposal.
“We are only as strong as our weakest link and our children are the future. So being able to mold and shape our children is our overarching mission,” said McClain.
The outreach event also allowed students to become pilots themselves through the 7th BW B-1B Lancer flight simulator. The simulator is a virtual reality system capable of simulating the environment of a flying aircraft and are largely used for pilot training, research, and the design and development of an aircraft.
Although the goal of the event was to inform students on aerospace and STEM careers, learning about the Tuskegee Airmen was the driving factor to encourage children to allow their minds to push the boundaries and do what they might think is not possible.
“Only one percent of the U.S. population joins the military, and one percent of those members are the minority,” said McClain. “It is important to instill a sense of confidence and take a chance on someone to possibly alter their life.”
The Tuskegee Airmen made history by becoming the first African-American military aviators in the U.S. Army Air Corps. Trained at the Army Air Field in Alabama, they flew more than 15,000 individual sorties in Europe and North Africa during World War II. Throughout their service, the Airmen earned more than 150 Distinguished Flying Crosses and helped encourage the eventual integration of the U.S. armed forces.
Throughout the day, the students had several opportunities to meet and speak to many distinguished leaders of Dyess such as the 7th BW Commander Col. Brandon Parker, and 317th Operations Group Commander Col. James Hackbarth.
Parker reinforced that as children grow up, they are not alone.
“You all have parents, teachers, leaders that want to help you and prepare you for later in life. It takes a long time to get to where you want to be; but you should prepare, perform and persevere because life is tough, but you are tougher,” said Parker.
At the end of the day, the children gathered in the 317th AW auditorium and four randomly selected attendees received a one-hour pilot training certificate for a hands-on lesson on the basics of flight and how to operate a small-engine aircraft.
“If you want to pursue a career in aviation, do not let anyone take that dream away,” McClain said. “Life will happen, but it’s ultimately up to you to make those dreams a reality.”