BANGOR, Maine — Airmen from the 101st Air Refueling Wing welcomed distinguished visitors on Thursday; young scholars from the Maine Summer Transportation Institute out of the University of Maine Orono campus. MSTI’s mission is to spark interest and create awareness in youngsters at the middle school grade levels by showing them first hand what the transportation industry has to offer here in the great state of Maine.
“It’s great because it’s an awareness opportunity for the students who may not know about the Maine Air National Guard and what the Airmen of the 101st do here,” said Phil Dunn. Phil is a professor for the Construction Engineering Technology program at UMO. “It’s my understanding that these tankers not only can conduct mid-air refueling, but also act as cargo transport, and that’s pretty cool. The fact of the matter is, these kids haven’t seen this craft up close like this, and I know they’re just in awe.”
When our distinguished visitors walked through that door onto the hangar floor and saw the KC-135 Stratotanker up close for the first time, the sound of unison exclamation couldn’t help but bring a smile to the MAINEiacs involved on the tour. As they walked up the stairs and into the jet, there wasn’t a straight face to be seen; nothing but smiles and surprise.
“When you see a plane up close you can’t help it I mean, your eyes are just going to pop. To see the kids smiling and having a good time really has made my day,” said Technical Sgt. Nate Welsh. TSgt Welsh is a Boom Operator for the 101st and a 12 year veteran wearing the uniform. “I knew what I wanted to do right out of high school and this was it. Making a difference by serving in the best unit in the world. Seeing the smiles on their faces reminds me of my first time seeing this plane up close. It’s awesome.”
After the future flyers toured the aircraft (including sitting in the cockpit and laying in the boom pod of course), they got a chance to meet the pinnacle innovation thinkers with our 3d printing team. They learned how 3d printing is a great opportunity to supplement parts for mission requirements and taskings. They also met with two other giants in the 101st transportation and technologies world; our Civil Engineering Squadron and Security Forces Squadron. Fire trucks, police cruisers, ATVs, bulldozers, and skid steers were just some of the equipment the kids got to see up close. Another head-turner was the Mobile Emergency Operations Center; a mobile command center that can provide aid during emergency or high profile situations. The kids were able to tour the bat mobile and talk with the MAINEiacs responsible for operating it.
“It’s really cool to see this plane up close and see how everything works. Today has been awesome,” said Zafir, a 14 year old Bangor resident who’s watched our birds flying high for years and finally got the chance to see one up close. “This has been one of the coolest things I’ve seen, it’s so big up close.”
Tanner is a 13 year old from Durham and like his pal Zafir, was extremely excited during the tour. “This plane is crazy big and has so many buttons. I build computers for fun, I can’t imagine the computer programming that goes into the cockpit instruments.”
The 101st ARW was honored to host the tour, and just as our guests were thrilled to be here, the MAINEiacs were equally as thrilled to meet these talented, smart, and motivated leaders of tomorrow.