by Senior Airman Zachiah Roberson
319th Air Base Wing Public Affairs
3/30/2015 - GRAND FORKS AIR FORCE BASE, N.D. -- Grand
Forks Air Force Base, N.D. recently hosted a STEM event here as a
collaborative program highlighting Women's History Month Mar. 25, 2015.
Science, technology, engineering and math; the central components of the
STEM Education Coalition, are designed to help shine light on the
possibilities and capabilities of today's youth.
The event offered girls in grades 7, 8 and 9 to attend numerous
activities on base, giving them hands on experience with miniature
remotely piloted aircraft (RPA), and even a visit to one of the 69th
Reconnaissance Group's Block-40 Global Hawks. All of these stops were
supported by female military members to not only stamp a true fact that
the military holds no barriers for women, but also to show support
during Women's History Month.
"[With the STEM program] we want students to pursue careers based off of
their interests, not off their gender," said Eric Ripley, Grand Forks
Public School District director of career and technical education.
This program was a cooperatively introduced by the base and the Grand
Forks Public Schools. (how many students) split up early in the day, to
help them better interact with the base personnel who assisted with the
The first activity for one group was learning what the RPA pilots here
do and how they accomplish the mission both at home and overseas. Once
that task was accomplished it was on to actually piloting one of their
own mini RPAs.
"This made me feel like I could go out and do something important," said
Alynn Julien, a student at Twining Middle and Elementary School.
"Instead of thinking just boys had to do this and just girls had to do
this, we can do also what boys do and the other way around."
After learning the basics of mini RPA controls, the children continued
on their tour to see an actual Block-40 Global Hawk with the assistance
of Capt. Ellen Williams, 69th Maintenance Squadron air craft maintenance
unit officer-in-charge. Williams talked to the group, explaining what
she does and how the aircraft works; after which the girls were let
loose to inspect the Aircraft up close.
"I thought it was a great opportunity to have girls out here getting to
see what maintenance does. It's not typical for most people to do this
kind of maintenance, let alone the female population doing so," said
Williams. "Women are doing lots of different things in the world today
and I just wanted to let them know that they can do whatever they want
to do in life and be who they want to be."
Seeing the aircraft and learning how to pilot a mini RPA was just the
mechanical side of the tour, the group followed through to the next part
of the tour which involved a more personal side of the RPA career
Members of the 69th Reconnaissance Group, known as the Lady Hawks,
gathered the girls in a room to discuss with them what they have done in
their time working with RPAs, from working at home-station, deploying
abroad to Australia and breaking military world records for flight time.
The children were shown that if they want to be a pilot in the Air
Force they can, with hard work and continuing to be active in bettering
themselves through school and productive activities.
"Having role models like the Lady Hawks are great examples of females
that were able to set world records and I think it's awesome, our girls
really look up to them," said Ripley.
Just as the Secretary of the Air Force is pushing to increase
opportunities for females in the Air Force, events like these help to
show the force's diversity and innovation.
"This goal will encourage our accession sources to more aggressively
compete for our Nation's top female talent and encourage the next
generation of innovative leaders to apply for our officer corps," said
Deborah Lee James, Secretary of the Air Force.
As homage to Women's History Month, the day contributed to reaching a
large amount of local young girls to show being female is no longer a
roadblock to a great career. Caring about what one does and striving to
actually succeed and reach that goal are the stepping stones in today's