Kids Learn That Air Guard Members Care

  • Published
  • By 2nd Lt. Marcie Mascaro
  • 134 ARW Public Affairs
Small feet pounded the pavement here July 18 in near-unison as a young lady led her battle buddies on a path of exploration as part of the Knoxville Police Department's Kids Boot Camp.

Squad leaders formed up their troops with the same gusto given to Airmen and Officer Candidates during their first weeks of military training.
"You already owe me 20 pushups!" shouts one police officer.

Police Officer Eric Heitz is a 22-year Army Reserve staff sergeant with the 253rd Military Police Company in Lenoir City, Tenn. "It's a really good program," said Heitz. "I wish we could keep them longer than a week, but we take what we can get."

The kids' trip to McGhee Tyson ANG Base is just one stop in their program co-sponsored by the Philip Moore Outreach Center to show kids options beyond their communities.
Col. Randall E. Gratz, vice commander of the 134th Air Refueling Wing, told the formation of about 30 at-risk youth that life is about choices. "Listen to your leaders, and they'll set you up for success."

Members of the Maintenance Squadron shared their morning with the kids. They inspected engines, discussed paint markings, and climbed aboard a KC-135 Stratotanker for a view from inside the boom.

"It's fun seeing their enthusiasm, and they ask endless questions," says Tech. Sgt. Derrick Dirmeyer, crew chief.
The kids were told how the aircraft's hydraulic system for the landing gear was like the hydraulics on a car, and they asked if the aircraft could "bounce."

Their tour continued to the Security Forces Squadron where Tech. Sgt. Mark Curry and Master Sgt. Michael Curry showcased M-4 rifles and 9mm pistols to teach gun safety.
"You don't pick up a gun or push the trigger because there might still be a bullet in there, and you might kill yourself or somebody else," Marquis Ellis said after the lesson.

The kids also tried on chemical gear and combat vests before heading to the Fire Department to wear more gear. "We got to put on stuff that was too heavy, I could barely lift my feet off the ground," said Maurice McKenzie, a fourth grader.

Staff Sgt. Zachary Troup, a firefighter, helped Sierra Dale, a second grader, aim a hefty stream of water from a fire hose. "Can we go to a bigger hose?" she asked, smiling.
"It's good to give back by giving them an up close and personal tour and hopefully have a positive influence on them," said Troup.
Hietz said the kids learn structure and teamwork as well as discover that National Guard members care.

"There's a lot to see here and hopefully for some of these kids ... an opportunity to see what they can become if they put their minds to it," said Hietz. "It's something to aspire to in or out of the military."