Columbus AFB showcases career fields at Mississippi’s largest career expo

  • Published
  • By Airman Davis Donaldson
  • 14th Flying Training Wing Public Affairs
Nearly 100 Airmen from Columbus Air Force Base, Mississippi, showcased 13 Air Force career fields to more than 7,200 eighth graders during the Imagine the Possibilities Career Expo Oct. 1-3 at the BancorpSouth Arena in Tupelo.

The base and its Airmen have supported the expo, sponsored by the CREATE Northeast Mississippi Community Foundation, for several years. The students represent 17 northeast Mississippi counties.

Kristy Luse, vice president of Toyota Wellspring Education Fund, helped coordinate this year’s expo. She explained her view about the importance and impact of providing this opportunity for students.

“The expo is an extension of what schools should really be,” Luse said. “It’s about the real world and expanding what can take place outside of a classroom so that students don’t exit high school not knowing what they want to do. It’s the opportunity to expose, prepare and connect our students to careers in high-demand fields.”

Luse said people underestimate what students in middle school can do, and it’s best for them to start exploring careers at a young age.

“The earlier, the better,” Luse said. “The more we prepare our students early, the more we expose them and connect them to different opportunities for their particular skill set and interests.”

She said she wants students to realize the Air Force is not only filled with pilots and warfighters, but there are also career pathways like dentistry, engineering and much more.

Over 175 exhibitors and 18 career pathways were represented at the convention some of which were showcased by Columbus AFB to include aerospace, communications, engineering, health sciences and public safety.

“I don’t think people realize all the Air Force has to offer,” said 2nd Lt. Nicolette Hallmark, 14th Civil Engineering Squadron community planner. “It gives them a glimpse of what the Air Force does and how they can get involved.”

Hallmark and her co-workers showcased the 14th Civil Engineer Squadron career field and the impact they have on the Air Force mission by having the students complete various tasks and building structures using Legos.

“Primarily with civil engineering, we have to build,” Hallmark said. “We have them draw something as a team and another team has to build it with their Legos. They have to do it in a specific, allotted amount of time in order for them to get the prize.”

Hallmark said the exercise educates them not only engineering in the Air Force, but the Air Force as a whole. It shows them critical thinking, responsibility and doing things on command, she said. They have to make good choices for their actions or it could affect a great number of people, Hallmark said.

She said the expo is a great opportunity for the students to explore the different fields at such a young age. She said at their age, she never had a thought about the future and her career.

“Hopefully they see the various careers here, and not just Air Force,” Hallmark said. “There are tons of opportunities for themselves, they just have to seek better for themselves. A lot of it has to do with stepping out of their comfort zone and this should get the ball rolling for them.”