Deployed D.C. Guard members inspire school children in the Australian Outback

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Aaron Church
  • 113th Main
D.C. Air National Guard members, the aptly named 'Capital Guardians', took time to plant seeds of friendship with Australian youngsters during their recent deployment to Royal Australian Air Force Base Tindal, Australia.        

Approximately 20 pilots, maintainers, medics, and life support Airmen visited  McFarlane Primary School in Katherine, Australia, and told eager students about their jobs, and life in the United States.  RAAF Tindal is a remote base in the Australian Outback almost 400 kilometers 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. As a result, many families struggle with poverty, domestic violence, alcoholism, and unemployment. 

"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."

Capital Guardians 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 F-16 survival equipment and other tools of the trade. Lt. Col. Eric Haagenson, 121st Fighter Squadron pilot, awed the youngsters by modeling his flight helmet, and medical technician Staff Sgt. Malcolm Williams taught the children some basic CPR, letting a very-eager schoolboy demonstrate on the dummy. 113th Maintenance Group superintendent and deployment Non-commissioned Officer in Charge, Chief Master Sgt. Joseph Smiley shared a lesson on core values, while 121st Expeditionary Fighter Squadron flight surgeon Lt. Col. Jim Doyle 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. Guard members a traditional aboriginal dance, getting the whole group keeping rhythm to the didgeridoo and clap-sticks.  The students were delighted to meet real "soldiers" and school officials said the D.C. Guard's visit was a first for RAAF Tindal, possibly laying a foundation for Australian Airmen to build a longer-term relationship with the school.