442d Fighter Wing welcomes Wright Flight students

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Melissa Sterling
  • 442d FW/PA

WHITEMAN AIR FORCE BASE, Mo. -- The Skelton Park tables were dotted with empty lunch bags as the Oakland Middle School and Smithton Middle School students from Columbia, Mo., ran around the park.

More than forty students played together. Some tackled each other, while others climbed the playground sets and tested how many people the teeter-totter could hold.

Suddenly, a great roar filled the air, and a B-2 Spirit took flight off the nearby runway.

For a moment, the students' attention was captured by something bigger.

The students had the opportunity to tour Whiteman Air Force Base as part of the Wright Flight Program of Missouri.

The Wright Flight Program teaches students the mechanics of flying, the history of flying and the history of the Air Force, among other topics.

The program is designed to help students set goals and achieve them with the help of teachers in their area and volunteers from Whiteman AFB.

Senior Master Sgt. Regina Brewer, Propulsion Flight Chief for the 442nd Maintenance Squadron, has been part of the Wright Flight Program for five years.

Brewer is a program director for Wright Flight of Missouri and a liaison for the 442nd Wright Flight chapter. She helps coordinate volunteers from the 442nd Fighter Wing to teach and mentor middle school students and helps setup tours for the students.

The students are taught lessons from aviation history, including the Wright brothers and Jimmy Doolittle, for example, said Brewer.

Aside from learning the development and strategic use of aircraft, there are many life lessons to be taught from the history of aircraft.

 "They didn't just all of a sudden build an airplane and it flew," said Brewer about the Wright brothers. "There were many obstacles in their way. They were bicycle builders, and they decided they wanted to start building an airplane. It took them four years before the first airplane ever got off the ground."

Andrea Kirkpatrick, a Gifted Education Specialist at Oakland and Smithton Middle Schools in Columbia, Mo., began teaching the Wright Flight Program one year ago.

"Your first idea is not always your best idea and your first idea is not always going to work," said Kirkpatrick. "Just because it didn't work doesn't mean you're a failure or your idea's a failure but that is something to overcome and improve."

The Wright brothers tested many times and failed, said Kirkpatrick. This program works hard to teach kids to work for a goal that's not right in front of their face.

Students' goals range anywhere from getting past 7th grade to attending college, said Brewer.

Lucas Kreutz, a 7th grade student from Oakland Middle School, has his long term goal in mind.

"I've always wanted to be some sort of engineer," said Kreutz. He feels that his talents are in building and fixing things, and he would like to use those talents for aircraft and possibly the Air Force one day.

"I didn't expect to learn a lot about World War II and the planes of the era and actually be able to come to an Air Force base," said Kreutz about his reactions to the Wright Flight Program. "I didn't expect any of that. Seeing the B-2 takeoff was one of the highlights of the day."

A base tour is one way the students are rewarded for their participation and hard work in the Wright Flight program. It is also rewarding for the teachers and volunteers to be able to see the students light up at the sight of a B-2 taking off.

"The result at the end is very rewarding," said Brewer about seeing students rewarded at the end of a program. "It's a lot of work and a lot of time, but it's worth it."