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Boy Scouts remind Airmen of mission

Boy Scouts from the surrounding community tour the 442nd Fighter Wing and learn about the A-10 Thunderbolt II Feb. 27, 2010. The 442nd Fighter Wing is an Air Force Reserve unit at Whiteman Air Force Base, Mo. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Jason Huddleston)

Boy Scouts from the surrounding community tour the 442nd Fighter Wing and learn about the A-10 Thunderbolt II Feb. 27, 2010. The 442nd Fighter Wing is an Air Force Reserve unit at Whiteman Air Force Base, Mo. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Jason Huddleston)

Capt. Jason Weiser 442nd Maintenance Operations Flight commander briefs Boy Scouts about the A-10 Thunderbolt II during a tour of Whiteman Air Force Base Feb. 27, 2010. The 442nd Fighter Wing is an Air Force Reserve unit at Whiteman.(U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Jason Huddleston)

Capt. Jason Weiser 442nd Maintenance Operations Flight commander briefs Boy Scouts about the A-10 Thunderbolt II during a tour of Whiteman Air Force Base Feb. 27, 2010. The 442nd Fighter Wing is an Air Force Reserve unit at Whiteman.(U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Jason Huddleston)

WHITEMAN AIR FORCE BASE, Mo. -- The B-2, maintained and operated here at Whiteman by active-duty and National Guard Airmen is an amazing example of the Air Force's power but, as we all know, the security surrounding the aircraft is tight, to say the least.

There is something to say for the A-10 displayed by the fact that our visitors may get up close and personal to our aircraft and put their hands on such a powerful instrument in the Air Force's arsenal. Allowing such contact makes the A-10 not only aesthetically pleasing but tangible.

Recently I was given the opportunity to participate in a tour of Whiteman AFB for several local Cub Scout troops and their leaders. The 509th Bomb Wing organized the tour and requested the 442nd Fighter Wing's support with a display of the A-10 Thunderbolt II.

I was overwhelmingly proud to see the participation from the servicemembers who volunteered for this event. Our pilots were extraordinarily accommodating to the children and were more than happy to answer any questions that arose during the tour. The continuity of the tour was a sight to see; the dedicated members of the 442nd worked together beautifully.

Because of the large size of the tour group, there were several speakers and to watch each of them individually was astonishing. Each servicemember involved in the tour had a smile on their face and was a wealth of knowledge; you could see the pride in their expressions as they went over the undeniably impressive facts about the A-10.

Working with children is not only my passion but my career choice as well. My civilian career allows me to bring a little different perspective to this experience. As I watched the children interact with members of the 442nd, I could not help but to think of what we must represent to these impressionable young minds. To children, the military represents many things.

Our uniforms are initially what set us apart but it is our mission that makes the greater impact; integrity, service and excellence. To these children we symbolize freedom, strength, courage, safety and comfort among many other admirable traits.

These children, if not brought up in a military home, may have limited contact with military members throughout their early years. This window of opportunity we are given puts us in a very unique position.

They say it takes a village to raise a child and I believe that through our contacts with these children we have been given the exceptional opportunity to instill memories and possibly nurture dreams. For some, this may not be a life changing experience however, this may be the very moment that places the foot print of the United States Air Force on their susceptible young minds.

The A-10 maintenance hangar has never appeared more promising to me than it did that day. There were 176 members of the tour group to grace the presence of our beautifully maintained facility and there was not a single face in the crowd that did not reflect respect and awe for the members of the 442nd, our aircraft and our mission. Children are our most valuable natural resource.

We have all been children. Some people are fortunate enough to know who and what we want to be and achieve it; others crave guidance and encouragement to become leaders.

I have hopes that the 442nd planted a seed that day to encourage children to become leaders and foster aspirations of becoming members of an elite team - the United States Air Force. I see potential in these children and I have respect for what they are - and what they have the potential to become.

It may be all too easy for us, as military members, to grow humble and forget what we exemplify and just how important our jobs really are.

I have faith that through our contact with the community on occasions such as this, we will harbor relationships that will ensure the success of the 442nd Fighter Wing and its members and possibly even recruit the faces of our future.