U.S. and Chilean Airmen visit school during SALITRE
By Tech. Sgt. Eric Petosky , 12th Air Force (Air Forces Southern) Public Affairs
/ Published October 27, 2009
IQUIQUE, Chile -- U.S. and Fuerza Aerea de Chile (FACh) Airmen visited an elementary school in Alto Hospicia, Chile Oct. 27 during SALITRE, a multinational exercise focused on interoperability between Chile, the United States, Argentina, Brazil, and France.
More than 100 children welcomed the Airmen, shyly saying "Hi" or "Hola", shaking hands, smiling and asking to take photos. The administration organized a song recital by the school choir, as well as a traditional dance number also performed by students.
The school had been preparing for the visit for weeks, said teacher Evelyn Martens.
"It was very interesting watching the students prepare," she said. "We had to choose students who would perform, and they were all jumping around, screaming. They are as happy as they can be."
Community Relations projects like this is nothing new to members of the 161st Air Refueling Wing, an Arizona Air National Guard tanker unit out of Phoenix. In the last four years, they have deployed to a number of exercises and air shows in Chile, each time taking a little time out of the busy flying schedule to say "thank you" to the local community.
Alongside their FACh counterparts, they matched the children smile-for-smile, and even brought along model airplane kits and candy to give away.
"Chile and the U.S. have such a strong partnership that extending a friendly hand to the local community with them just makes sense," said Maj. Jeremy Lopes, 161st ARW KC-135 pilot. "It's great to see the kids react to us being here too. These visits are always a lot of fun for everyone. It's the very least we can do to say 'thank you' to such accommodating hosts."