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AFSOUTH Airmen partner with Chilean Air Force and Agilent Technologies to teach “How Airplanes Fly”

  • Published
  • By Capt. Nathan D. Broshear
  • Twelfth Air Force (Air Forces Southern) Public Affairs
More than 10 community outreach projects were started Oct. 27 during the Twelfth Air Force (Air Forces Southern)'s Operation Southern Partner. 

Maj. Jason Couisine, the Air Force section chief at the U.S. Military Group here, acted as a schoolteacher during a guest science class at the Complejo Educacional Esperanza School in Santiago, which led the start of the operation.

Operation Southern Partner is an AFSOUTH-led event aimed at providing intensive, periodic subject matter exchanges with partner nations in the U.S. Southern Command area of focus. The all-new program features more than 70 U.S. Air Force subject matter experts from about 25 career fields working alongside partner nation military members in similar career specialties during week-long exchanges. 

While working in each host nation, the Airmen are provided opportunities to participate in community outreach events such as visiting orphanages, area schools, civic groups and military installations

During Monday's science event, about 40 children listened intently as Major Couisine explained how an aircraft's wings create lift. He also introduced volunteers from the U.S. Military Group, Twelfth Air Force (Air Forces Southern), Chilean air force, U.S. Embassy and Santa Clara, Calif.-based technology firm, Agilent Technologies. 

The event was the first time such a diverse group had teamed for an AFSOUTH outreach project -- a goal U.S. Southern Command has championed as a way to bring militaries, industry and non-government organizations together to reach common goals, said Dana Willis, the Twelfth Air Force (Air Forces Southern) project officer for Operation Southern Partner.

Model airplane kits, part of Agilent's ongoing after-school program to inspire youth to learn about the practical applications of scientific principles, were distributed after the major's lecture. The kits contained all the parts necessary to build a rubber band powered airplane, along with instructions and questions designed to teach children the dynamics of flight. 

"The chance to work together with the U.S. and Chilean air forces during Operation Southern Partner is a phenomenal opportunity to reach those who may have never met a pilot or military member -- they're extraordinary role models," said Arlene Dickson, one of the volunteers at the event and corporate relations manager at Agilent. 

"The volunteers today all had the same goal in mind: inspiring the future scientists and engineers of tomorrow," she said. "Together, we also had a lot of fun learning about how aircraft fly and getting to know our neighbors in Chile."

Each volunteer sat at a table with four children for the two-hour event, mentoring their group to build the most airworthy aircraft possible. 

"It was a super experience for all participants." Mr. Willis said. "Not only did future leaders learn about aviation, they had first hand experience with U.S. Air Force aviators and the excitement the kids exhibited during the visit was amazing.  "This event created lasting positive memories for the kids, embassy personnel, and the aviators," he said. 

Air Force memorabilia including flashlights, key chains and balls were distributed for the eager group to take home as souvenirs of their experience. Lollipops helped to keep the energy level high as students tested their contraptions to ensure wings and tails were stable. In the process, volunteers explained how moving rudders, ailerons and tail fins changed the direction of flight.

After the construction of the model planes was over, the children attempted to fly their creations in the school courtyard, meeting varying levels of success.  "Some of these children are natural engineers," Major Couisine said. "After seeing how quickly they built their airplanes and flew them ... I'm sure we discovered more than a few future airmen!" 

After a heartfelt goodbye, the volunteers gathered to reflect on the model making experience, joking with one another as new friends.  "I can't wait to participate in another one of these Air Force events," Mrs. Dickson said. "To see the excitement in the faces of these children once they completed their airplane ... I think we all learned valuable lessons today."