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Flat Stanleys deploy from McConnell

A KC-135 Stratotanker crew consisting of Airmen from McConnell Air Force Base, Kan., hold up Flat Stanleys, June 2016, at a deployed location. The Flat Stanleys, created by a class of second graders from Columbus Elementary School, McMinnville, Oregon, deployed with Airmen from the 384th, 350th and 349th Air Refueling Squadrons. (Courtesy photo)

A KC-135 Stratotanker crew composed of Airmen from McConnell Air Force Base, Kan., hold up Flat Stanleys June 2016 at a deployed location. The Flat Stanleys were created by a class of second-graders from Columbus Elementary School in McMinnville, Ore., and deployed with Airmen from the 384th, 350th and 349th Air Refueling Squadrons. (Courtesy photo)

MCCONNELL AIR FORCE BASE, Kan. (AFNS) -- It was early in the morning when they got the call to deploy. Once aboard a KC-135 Stratotanker, they began their 8,000-mile expedition. It was 110 degrees when they landed in the hot and dusty country, and their journey had only just begun, the aircrew said.

The paper dolls, also known as Flat Stanleys, were crafted by a class of second-graders from Columbus Elementary School in McMinnville, Oregon, and sent out to deploy with KC-135 crews from the 384th, 350th and 349th Air Refueling Squadrons.

“My students were fascinated with their ‘missions,’” said Leah Spencer, teacher of the class. “Many students had very little background information about the Air Force or the military, so it provided many opportunities for new learning.”

The project is a pen pal activity to increase literacy among young children. The students each talked and wrote about their flat character’s journey and adventures, while receiving information and photos back from the crew.

“They were wonderful about sending journal updates often, which kept (the class) engaged and eager for the next bit of news,” Spencer said. “The pictures that we received were probably the most exciting part for the children. We learned about so many things that we never would have if they hadn't taken our flat friends on their journey.”

The Flat Stanleys traveled halfway around the world with the aircrew, participating in nighttime refueling missions over Southeast Asia.

“It was fun to fly the Stanleys around,” said 1st Lt. Alexander Rindo, a 350th ARS pilot. “It gave the crewmembers something else to look forward to while doing our mission and gave us a morale boost knowing it was for the kids back home.”

When McConnell Airmen were approached about this project through a parent, they were more than happy to help. The crew was deployed for more than a month overseas and the Flat Stanleys were alongside them every step of the way.

“It’s always great to help out the community in any way we can,” Rindo said. “We love being involved when we get the chance, especially if it means making someone’s day. We couldn’t pass up the opportunity to help out a classroom of second-graders who worked hard on creating their flat people.”

After the deployment, the dolls returned back home to Oregon, where the children patiently awaited their arrival.

“The kids were so excited they could hardly contain themselves,” Spencer said. “(The children) really saw the flat people as extensions of themselves, so it was so important for them to have them back from their adventure and a great way to end the school year.”

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