HomeNewsArticle Display

Friendship knows no borders

Sarah Caton, right, hugs her best friend Fatou Gueye May 20, 2014, at the Maxwell Air Force Base child development center, Ala. Both girls are 4-year-old students at the center. When Fatou, who is from Senegal, first arrived to the CDC she did not speak English, and was not familiar with American customs. Thanks to Sarah Fatou is now fluent in English and comfortable with cultural norms. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Natasha Stannard)

Sarah Caton, right, hugs her best friend Fatou Gueye May 20, 2014, at the Maxwell Air Force Base child development center, Ala. Both girls are 4-year-old students at the center. When Fatou, who is from Senegal, first arrived to the CDC she did not speak English, and was not familiar with American customs. Thanks to Sarah Fatou is now fluent in English and comfortable with cultural norms. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Natasha Stannard)

Sarah Caton, left, hugs her best friend Fatou Gueye May 20, 2014, at the Maxwell Air Force Base child development center, Ala. Both girls are 4-year-old students at the center. When Fatou, who is from Senegal, first arrived to the CDC she did not speak English, and was unfamiliar with American customs. Thanks to Sarah, Fatou is now fluent in English and has adjusted to American practices. Many foreign students attend the Maxwell CDC as their parents go through officer schools at the Air University. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Natasha Stannard)

Sarah Caton, left, hugs her best friend Fatou Gueye May 20, 2014, at the Maxwell Air Force Base child development center, Ala. Both girls are 4-year-old students at the center. When Fatou, who is from Senegal, first arrived to the CDC she did not speak English, and was unfamiliar with American customs. Thanks to Sarah, Fatou is now fluent in English and has adjusted to American practices. Many foreign students attend the Maxwell CDC as their parents go through officer schools at the Air University. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Natasha Stannard)

Senegal air force Maj. Papa Dieumb Gueye studies on a Sunday afternoon as his family relaxes. Gueye attends Air Command and Staff College at the Air University where he completes approximately four hours of homework a day. His family is active in the Maxwell Air Force Base community, with his children attending the child development center. His wife meets with other international officer’s spouses that she met through base programs. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Natasha Stannard)

Senegal air force Maj. Papa Dieumb Gueye studies on a Sunday afternoon as his family relaxes. Gueye attends Air Command and Staff College at the Air University where he completes approximately four hours of homework a day. His family is active in the Maxwell Air Force Base community, with his children attending the child development center. His wife meets with other international officer’s spouses that she met through base programs. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Natasha Stannard)

MAXWELL AIR FORCE BASE, Ala. (AFNS) --  Four-year-old Sarah reached out to grasp her friend Fatou's hand as she has every day since Fatou first arrived at the Maxwell Air Force Base child development center in August 2013. 

On this day, Sarah led Fatou to the dance floor, placing her in a specific position like a delicate wall fixture. With Fatou in place, Sarah grabbed the plastic microphone and pressed the play button as she began to sing "Dora, Dora, Dora the Explorer."

Fatou launched her arms into motion, slicing the air as she moved side-to-side. Sarah belted the lyrics, giving them a few changes, "Fatou, you can do it. You can do anything," she sang as Fatou's arms waved on. 

Fatou danced around, singing along with the music as though English wasn't a new language, and as though the girl from Senegal wasn't just submerged into a completely different culture less than a year ago.

When Fatou's family first arrived here from Senegal to accompany her father Maj. Papa Dieumb Gueye as he went through the Air University's Air Command and Staff College, she didn't know how to ride a tricycle or where to wash her hands. Now, thanks to Sarah, she does.

"I've never seen two kids just connect like Sarah and Fatou," said Dafphne Collins, the girls' CDC teacher.

The CDC, which acts as a daycare for military members at Maxwell AFB, is no stranger to foreign children as many officers from different countries attend the various AU colleges. It's no surprise when the children don't know some things specific to American culture, such as language and customs, Collins said.

With the struggles of attending a new school as a foreign student in mind, Collins looked to veteran CDC attendee Sarah and spoke to Sarah's mother, Master Sgt. Alisha Caton, telling her about the new shy girl from Africa and asking if Sarah could look out for her.

Collins felt Sarah would be a good friend for Fatou because she has attended the CDC since the age of six weeks, giving her a sort of tenure. Sarah is all about fairness among peers. When other children don't share the plastic microphone or building blocks, she is quick to tell them they need to share. She is also the first to relinquish play time with any of the said toys as soon as someone asks for a turn. 

Before Caton even got the chance to ask her daughter about the buddy system, she started hearing a new name at the house. 

"For a while all she talked about was Fatou," Caton said. "I was talking to the teachers and they said her and Sarah are best friends. Sarah takes her everywhere holding hands, and (she) just took her under her wing. I was really proud of her for that."

The teachers said when it comes to Fatou, Sarah makes sure she is treated equally and understands the CDC play rules, often saying, "It's Fatou's turn," or "Fatou, you have to share."

"If somebody's mean to Fatou, Sarah does not like it. She goes to bat for Fatou," Collins said. 

Caton, who is an Air National Guardsman with the 187th Fighter Wing, said she wasn't just proud of the two girls, but thankful they both got exposure to completely different cultures. 

"I have been so grateful for this opportunity, which you don't often get in a small town," she said.

Fatou's father also added his appreciation and emphasized the importance of the friendship for not only the girls, but his family and career. 

"Going to school is easier when you don't have to worry if your family is going through difficult times," Gueye said. 

With about four hours of homework each night, if someone in his family like Fatou was struggling as she had when she first arrived, keeping up with the AU course work would have been difficult, said Gueye. He and his wife, Barane, are both very thankful for not only Sarah's hospitality, but the care from others like Collins who make Maxwell AFB feel like home. 

"Everyone here has been great, and I'm especially grateful for the friendship between Sarah and Fatou," he said, adding that her teachers also take really great care of Fatou and her brother Papa.

Gueye also said he appreciates all the other programs Maxwell AFB provides for international officers' families to be able to join and feel welcomed. 

"This is my first time on duty with my family, so this is really nice for me," he said. "Even in Senegal I'm only home for two weeks at most, so it's been very nice to have them join me as I study here."

Maxwell AFB may not be Fatou's actual hometown, but it is where her best friend Sarah made her feel a part of a family, and she plans to keep in touch after they part ways in June. 

"We made Fatou a going away gift with a few things to remind her of her time here with Sarah, along with tools to keep in touch with us as they go back," Caton said. 

When Fatou was asked if she is going to miss Sarah, she looked down without saying a word as she bobbed her head up and down. 

"I'm going to miss Fatou," Sarah said. 

Her mom added that they are definitely keeping in touch to maintain their friendship.

Engage

Twitter
Keeping us a #ReadyAF by strengthening partnerships w/our allies! 💪 #AimHigh https://t.co/wmMDgLeTd3
Twitter
The Air Force Civil Engineer Center is executing $87 million in critical airfield construction at one of the most i… https://t.co/bRhCVY7X6R
Twitter
Got power? ⚡ This year's energy resilience theme is "Energy Able, Mission Capable." #EnergyAwarenessMonth Follo… https://t.co/yRhhSDQLcT
Twitter
Suicide prevention training is now available for Air Force families as a way to educate spouses, partners, adult fa… https://t.co/68Trsq4AvC
Twitter
Modernizing the force. @NellisAFB was one of the first five @DeptofDefense bases named to host new 5G technology,… https://t.co/aOpGtX2wZq
Twitter
Airmen from Will Rogers Air National Guard Base and @Team_Tinker participated in a Tactical Combat Casualty Care fo… https://t.co/9xKP1H3e3D
Twitter
“Resiliency is readiness & readiness breeds culture.” - @CMSAF_Official Connection to others is a basic human need… https://t.co/s6ktJj7jyX
Twitter
Training to be the best on the worst day. #ReadyAF https://t.co/KGwHLG0oVK
Twitter
.@AFWERX is hosting a "Reimagining Energy for the DOD" challenge, seeking solutions to create the future of resilie… https://t.co/oGKgli3pbd
Twitter
The circumstance the family lived in led to constant emotional turmoil, which boiled over when SrA Zatavia Funchess… https://t.co/wY5rG0rdUr
Twitter
RT @AETCommand: Born & raised in the Philippines, A1C Antonette Joanne Delos Santos of @97AMW, earned a bachelor’s degree in engineering be…
Twitter
The Air Force Civil Engineer Center announced the winners of the 2020 Air Force Design Awards, recognizing seven in… https://t.co/1S5zPl3D7s
Twitter
The #USAF has increased aircraft availability & readiness across three of its bases thanks to new sustainment initi… https://t.co/UKmePcUphL
Twitter
The Stormbreaker! No...not Thor's axe, but it packs just as much punch! The Small Diameter Bomb II Stormbreaker is… https://t.co/QzhepbzuhZ
Twitter
Forward presence The 816th Expeditionary Airlift Squadron, deployed with @USAFCENT, is responsible for delivering… https://t.co/GZEGf9CqqT
Twitter
"Doomsday" simulators are coming! The Air Force has awarded the contract for simulators to train E-4B "Doomsday pl… https://t.co/uOko4RNM04
Twitter
Using a try-before-you-buy strategy, a team within the Digital Directorate, headquartered at @Hanscom_AFB, complete… https://t.co/cE0xPkzNSA
Twitter
RT @DeptofDefense: Sports heroes who served. From the basketball court to the baseball diamond and the halls of the U.S. Capitol, find ou…
Twitter
.@AFWERX is announcing the Reimagining Energy Challenge for the @DeptofDefense. https://t.co/3zh486icys
Facebook
The newest Air Force Podcast recently dropped. Listen to a small snippet of CMSAF Kaleth O. Wright talk with Staff Sgt. New about resiliency. Listen to the entire podcast on Youtube: https://go.usa.gov/xpnAD or Subscribe to The Air Force Podcast on iTunes: https://podcasts.apple.com/podcast/the-air-force-podcast/id1264107694?mt=2
Facebook
Our mantra, "Always ready!" It's the spirit we fly by! #B2Tuesday
Facebook
Need some motivation to get your week started off right? Listen as CMSAF Kaleth O. Wright weighs in...
Facebook
The U.S. Air Force Academy gives its cadets some unique opportunities. Ride along one of this opportunities.
Facebook
A United States Air Force KC-135 Stratotanker refuels an F-22 Raptor over northern Iraq, Nov. 6, 2019. U.S. Central Command operations deter adversaries and demonstrate support for allies and partners in the region. (Video by Staff Sgt. Daniel Snider)
Facebook
Although the Silver Star is the third-highest military medal, it's not given often. Today, TSgt Cody Smith was the 49th Special Tactics Airman to receive this medal since Sept. 11th, 2001. Read more of TSgt Smith's amazing story: https://www.airforcespecialtactics.af.mil/News/Article-Display/Article/2024815/special-tactics-airman-battled-through-injuries-awarded-silver-star/fbclid/IwAR2LZWwx1VHdTnQe39rIEBOuJS_0JvMQBBGt7I-E6zsxxn-Lx9387yu43Bc/ Cannon Air Force Base Air Force Special Operations Command United States Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) U.S. Department of Defense (DoD)
Facebook
Tune in as our Air Force musicians along with other military musicians are awarded the National Medal of Arts.
Facebook
Like Us
Twitter
1,294,492
Follow Us