Science and Technology News

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

STARBASE expands young minds

by Senior Airman Ashley J. Thum
4th Fighter Wing Public Affairs

6/30/2015 - SEYMOUR JOHNSON AIR FORCE BASE, N.C.  -- Sixty soon-to-be fifth graders journeyed through the limitless skies of knowledge during the 2015 Science and Technology Academies Reinforcing Basic Aviation and Space Exploration, June 22 to 26.

For nearly a quarter of a century, STARBASE has given children in North Carolina a deeper look at the foundation for Dominant Strike Eagle Airpower.

U.S. Air Force Capt. Tom Morrill, 335th Fighter Squadron F-15E Strike Eagle pilot, has been the program's coordinator for the past two years.

"STARBASE is a week-long science, technology, engineering and mathematics day camp for kids," Morrill said. "The mornings are filled with classroom instruction, and then in the afternoons we bring them on base."

Teachers from local schools taught each of the four flights rocketry, laws of motion, oceans of air, and compass reading, before the flights toured facilities that included the F-15E Strike Eagle simulator and the 4th Operations Support Squadron weather flight.

Tanya Grady, STARBASE rocketry instructor, said the correlation between the classroom topics and the afternoon tours is one of the main benefits of the program.

"I think it exposes the students at a very young age to all of the different possibilities and how we do apply the principles and laws that we just learned in the classroom," Grady said. "They actually get to see it in action."

The Airmen and instructors weren't the only ones teaching. For children with military parents, or those with just a piqued interest in the military, the camp was a chance to show off their knowledge of things like aircraft cockpits and rocket propelled grenades.

However, perhaps the largest impact was made on those students who had no previous interaction with a military base or service members, for whom the camp afforded what could prove to be a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

"I wanted to be in STARBASE because I knew that we would get to go on base, and I wanted to know what the Air Force does," said Rachel, a STARBASE student. "I went to most of the places on the Air Force base, and it was fun to know because my parents aren't in the Air Force, so I didn't know what the Air Force did."

This year's STARBASE week captured nearly every aspect of the base's mission and how Airmen train to accomplish it. Students were put through their paces during a virtual reality parachute jump in the 4th OSS survival, evasion, resistance and escape building, and caught a glimpse of the behind-the-scenes work at the 4th Component Maintenance Squadron engine repair facility and "Hush House" - where the children marveled at an F-15E engine spouting flames into a specially designed tunnel.

Aviation principles aside, the week also featured tours and demonstrations by the 4th Security Forces Squadron military working dog section, and the 4th Civil Engineer Squadron fire department and explosive ordnance disposal flight.

"We want them to see this base represents more than just the sound of jet noise," Morrill said. "It represents a lot of very proficient people with specific skills."

Rachel said one of those specific skills, that belonging to KC-135 Stratotanker boom operators, was her favorite part of the camp.

"I thought it was really cool to lie down at the end of the plane and see how they refuel the other planes," Rachel said.

Grady, who has worked with the STARBASE program since 1996, said it would be nearly impossible to pinpoint her favorite part of the week.

"It could be something from every day, we had so much fun," Grady said. "Everyone was excellent working with the kids. We couldn't have asked for a better host Air Force base to be on."

Morrill, known to the kids as "Captain Tom," said he hopes that they'll remember what they learned and the relationships they built during their week on base.

"It's a good feeling being the 'face' of the program for the kids and being on a first-name basis with them," Morrill said. "They saw people representing every uniform in the Air Force this week, and they now have a connection with us, not just as STARBASE students, but as members of the community."

Annual registration for the STARBASE program is held in February and March. Due to a limited number of open spots, students may be placed on a waiting list. For more information, contact Janie Best, STARBASE organizer, at (919) 722-5810.

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