Letters to the Editor

Air Force looks to join forces with local educators

Tech. Sgt. Carla Boehm, 375th Communications Squadron security manager, interviews a middle school student during St. Clare Catholic School’s science fair Feb. 22, 2018 in O’Fallon, Illinois. Scott Air Force Base sent about 30 volunteers to help grade and interview the St. Clare students on their science projects. (Photo by Airman 1st Class Tara Stetler/U.S. Air Force)
Tech. Sgt. Carla Boehm, 375th Communications Squadron security manager, interviews a middle school student during St. Clare Catholic School’s science fair Feb. 22, 2018 in O’Fallon, Illinois. Scott Air Force Base sent about 30 volunteers to help grade and interview the St. Clare students on their science projects. (Photo by Airman 1st Class Tara Stetler/U.S. Air Force)

Air Mobility Command is hard at work looking to expand partnerships with area schools near and surrounding military installations.

Ensuring a strong science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics curriculum, known as STEAM, benefits school districts and the Air Force alike. However, not necessarily for the reasons one may think. For the Air Force, this need has as much to do with retaining airmen as it does recruiting them.

In a 2017 Military Times poll, airmen indicated the quality of K-12 education was a key decision point on whether to continue serving in the Air Force. If military families are concerned with the quality of education available to children, it can add stress in the home and have a negative impact on an airman’s ability to accomplish the mission.

While some schools earn high marks others are falling short of expectations, and military families are frequently feeling the impact.

Here locally, schools are rated higher than most of the public education institutions supporting other Air Mobility Command installations. On Greatschools.org, Mascoutah Middle School is rated a nine on a ten point scale. That’s an “A” grade. Most of the schools in O’Fallon and Belleville also rate favorably. Now consider the school district serving Andrews AFB, Maryland, home of the AMC unit and the installation responsible for supporting the Presidential Airlift mission. Several schools supporting Andrews AFB earned three and four point ratings. On any grading or percentage scale, unless you are talking baseball batting averages, this is not an acceptable mark.

This creates a difficult situation for military families facing the prospect of their kids falling behind academically, simply due to where the member is assigned. Families often must choose between dipping into savings to afford private education, home schooling their children, or accepting the circumstances and hoping children will adapt and overcome the challenges. Military service comes with its fair share of sacrifices. Should the quality of a child’s education be one of them? If left unaddressed, this issue will continue to negatively affect efforts to retain airmen.

Recognizing the importance of military family readiness in Air Force mission success, Air Mobility Command, led by Gen. Carlton Everhart, is actively seeking and creating partnerships with local and public schools across several states to provide insight into the Air Force while complementing educational experiences.

This Friday, Scott Air Force Base hosts a science, technology, engineering, and mathematics event for 350 area middle and high school students. Students will have the opportunity to receive demonstrations from pilots, communications experts, and medical professionals. They will gain an understanding of how technology and airman ingenuity make the U.S. Air Force the most dominant air force on the planet.

In support of the month of March’s national ‘Music in Our Schools’ campaign and AMC’s STEAM initiative, AMC’s two bands will perform and interact with students and educators in 47 schools across six different states this month alone. Engagements such as these introduce students to the Air Force and possibilities of service, and also enhance local education. The bands are looking to consistently support area schools where interest exists.

In April, the command will also host civic leaders representing AMC communities across the nation to enhance partnering efforts. Here locally, AMC is working with civic leaders from the Leadership Council Southwestern Illinois, Science and Citizens Organized for Purpose and Exploration, and area schools to add the experience and talents of airmen to educational efforts.

In many ways, each military installation has a pool of potential educators available to share experiences and serve as guest lecturers, providing possible mentorship for students and enriching the educational experience beyond traditional curriculum.

Access to schools and interaction with educators and students is necessary to the Air Force, as the service branch seeks to recruit future airmen and retain those currently serving. Interaction with airmen in schools also helps educators understand opportunities available to enhance the overall educational experience. America’s future only stands to grow stronger via strengthened partnerships between the military and local educators. AMC is ready to do its part and join forces with local educators.

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