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NEWS | Sept. 29, 2014

Airmen inspire school children in Australian Outback

By Airman 1st Class Aaron Church 113th Maintenance Squadron

ROYAL AUSTRALIAN AIR FORCE BASE TINDAL, Australia - Air National Guard Airmen from Washington, D.C., planted seeds of friendship with Australian youngsters during their recent deployment to Royal Australian Air Force Base Tindal.

Approximately 20 pilots, maintainers, medics and life-support Airmen visited McFarlane Primary School in Katherine in Northern Territory and told eager students about their jobs and life in the United States.

RAAF Base Tindal is a remote base in the Australian Outback almost 249 miles from the nearest mid-sized city. Many children from the neighboring community of Katherine and the surrounding bush come from traditional Aboriginal families that often struggle to integrate with modern Australian culture.

"A lot of students think they're not going anywhere ... they don't take risks and they often give up on things very quickly," said McFarlane Principal Jenny Henderson, explaining the school's challenge. "At McFarlane, we focus on life after school and getting students to think beyond school (and) to set and achieve goals for their future."

The ANG Airmen stressed the value of hard work, persistence, teamwork, mutual respect and bouncing back from failure in addition to letting the children get hands-on with Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcon aircraft survival equipment and other tools of the trade.

Air Force Lt. Col. Eric Haagenson, 121st Fighter Squadron pilot of the D.C. ANG, awed the youngsters by modeling his flight helmet and medical technician Staff Sgt. Malcolm Williams taught the children some basic cardiopulmonary resuscitation, letting an eager schoolboy demonstrate on the manikin. Air Force Chief Master Sgt. Joseph Smiley, the D.C. ANG's 113th Maintenance Group superintendent and deployment non-commissioned officer in charge, shared a lesson on core values, while Air Force Lt. Col. Jim Doyle, D.C. ANG's 121st Expeditionary Fighter Squadron flight surgeon, taught the kids a bit about U.S. geography.

Each of the Airmen took the chance to share what they do and where they are from, stressing how people from different communities and backgrounds come together as a unit to achieve an important mission for their country. In return, the students taught the D.C.ANG members a traditional aboriginal dance, getting the whole group keeping rhythm to the didgeridoo and clap-sticks.

The students were delighted to meet the Airmen and school officials said the D.C. ANG's visit was a first for RAAF Base Tindal, possibly laying a foundation for Australian Airmen to build a longer-term relationship with the school.