Airmen showcase AF opportunities to 7,000 students during career expo

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Christopher Gross
  • 14th Flying Training Wing Public Affairs

TUPELO, Miss. – More than 110 Airmen from Columbus Air Force Base, Mississippi, spent several days showing more than 7,000 eighth-grade students, from 17 northeast Mississippi counties, some of the vast career opportunities the Air Force offers during the Imagine the Possibilities Career Expo Oct. 3-5 at the BancorpSouth Arena in Tupelo.

The expo was hosted by the CREATE Foundation and was sponsored by Toyota and more than 150 organizations. Airmen from Columbus AFB represented seven of the 18 career pathways including aerospace, communications, engineering, government and public administration, health sciences, logistics and law and public safety; and within those pathways a total of 21 careers were showcased.

“Our motto for Imagine is ‘hands on, minds on,’” said Albine Bennett, coordinator of the Imagine the Possibilities expo and director of communications for the CREATE Foundation. “These eighth-graders … think they know, or they might have an inkling [of what they want to do] but this is important not only to connect them to pathways but also connect them to mentors and individuals in our community who are in the careers that they aspire to be, so it’s important to connect our youth with our community and our business world and other organizations to show them what’s available.”

Bennett said the expo focused on eighth grade because as they enter ninth grade they begin choosing classes for a particular pathway. She said she hopes this expo sets them on the correct pathway to finish high school and get them started in the career they aspire to be a part of and succeed.

Some of those pathways can be found in the Air Force and that’s why Airmen from Columbus AFB attended, to inspire students and engage with them about the opportunities that await them if they do good in school.

“We want everybody else to understand that the Air Force is just not … go deploy and it’s a warfighter,” said Master Sgt. Cory Little, 14th Security Forces Squadron Superintendent. “We want them to understand as well that we have stuff back here in the United States and abroad where we have a lot of the same career paths that are out in the civilian [sector] as well and it’s just a different way of doing it and actually serving.”

Little’s squadron showed students how they can be a part of the Air Force in a law enforcement capacity and also how they work with other local police and sheriff departments. Students were able to strike bags with foam baton sticks and 14th SFS Airmen even dressed in a protective RedMan suit and students were able to strike and yell out instructions until the Airman complied. Once the Airman complied, they were instructed to stop hitting.

Little said the participation was very rewarding and he hopes the students who attended grasp an idea, or several, that allows them to be inspired to pursue a particular career.

Bennett said the foundation is very appreciative the Air Force is able to show students the avenues the military provides.

“Our partnership with the Columbus Air Force Base is amazing, we are so thankful to have [them] on board,” Bennett said. “What makes the partnership special is that [the Airmen] are in different pathways which is amazing because these students can see what opportunities are available to them from different perspectives and it helps them realize that you can be a part of the Air Force or any other military branch and still be a part of the society and do your duty.”

Careers from the medical field were also represented by Airmen. Capt. David Marks, 14th Medical Operations Squadron Mental Health, said although the Air Force’s main objective is air superiority, “it takes so many people to support the effort, [and it’s] important for young folks to see what we do.”

At such a young age, Marks said the students probably don’t know what to pursue and it can be hard to push past that point.

“It’s a lot easier to start making goals like going to college and … I think it’s just important to get a more clear vision of what they can do,” Marks said.

He said expos such as Imagine allow children to dream and “with those dreams they can set goals.”