Big Brothers Big Sisters visits 3rd Operations Group
By David Bedard, Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson Public Affairs Office
/ Published November 05, 2010
JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska (AFNS) -- As he dangled from parachute risers, 12-year old Keegan Hall looked down at a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier sailing in the Pacific. Deftly controlling his parachute's toggles, Keegan successfully maneuvered into a stand-up landing on the ship's pitching deck.
Peering through virtual reality glasses, Keegan experienced what it would be like to eject from a fighter jet above an aircraft carrier group.
Keegan had donned a parachute harness and was strapped in by Aircrew Flight Equipment Flight, 3rd Operations Support Squadron Airman, while visiting 3rd Operations Group, 3rd Wing at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Oct. 29, with Big Brothers Big Sisters.
Lt. Col. Greg Miller, the 3rd OG deputy commander, said the activity was part of BBBS' tour of several units of the group that included an F-22 Raptor static display, the C-17 Globemaster III flight simulator, the F-22 egress procedure trainer and some firsthand experience with Air Force survival equipment, including night vision goggles.
Colonel Miller said Col. William Routt, the 3rd OG commander and military liaison to the BBBS leadership council, organized the event with BBBS Director of Development Kelli Phifer.
"(They) decided it would be a good opportunity to give back to the community, because the community here supports the military so well," Colonel Miller said. "It's a nice way to show the community what we do on a day-to-day basis. It gives them a little bit of appreciation for what goes on here at the base, and it gives the kids a good time."
Colonel Miller said 3rd OG Airmen relished the opportunity to work with BBBS youth.
"It's a nice break from the in and out day-to-day work," he explained. "Second, I think it's a nice way for them to give back to the community, and let them know the community sees what they're doing and knows they're part of the big picture of what goes on here."
Ms. Phifer said BBBS matches youth from the ages of 6 through 18 with a caring adult mentor or with a mentor couple. The program has made more than 1,500 matches across the state.
"We like to say that we help kids stay on the right path," Ms. Phifer said. "Kids need someone to talk to, and it's a great thing to have their 'big,' who is someone who doesn't have to be there.
"They're not a parent," Ms. Phifer said. "They're not a teacher; they're not someone who is being paid to spend time with them like a tutor. This is an adult who chooses to spend time with the child, and that tells something to a kid."
Phifer said BBBS youth may open up to their mentors in ways they may feel reluctant to with their parents.
Despite this dynamic, mentors are not a stand in for parents, but rather a supplement, she said.
"We're not a replacement, at all, for parents," she said. "We're there to help walk kids through and be a friend -- do what friends do."
Would-be mentors submit to a background check before qualifying for the program. Mentors, parents and children are interviewed to make a match on common preferences and personality traits.
With nearly 70 children currently looking for a mentor match, Ms. Phifer said opportunities are ripe to volunteer with BBBS.
"What we really want are long-lasting relationships and friendships," Ms. Phifer said. "And just like any other relationship, you have to have some sort of commonality. So, we take great care in matching our 'bigs' and 'littles' and then supporting those relationships is really the key to making them long and successful."