HomeNewsArticle Display

News Search

Airmen visit Colombian orphanage during RIO NEGRO air show

Capt. Sam Joplin, the F-15 West Coast Demonstration Team pilot, observes a child’s reaction upon receiving a coloring book from visiting Airmen.  Airmen visited and ate lunch with staff and children at the ALDEAS SOS home near Medellin, Colombia during planned community outreach events associated with the RIO NEGRO air and trade show.  More than 25 Airmen gave presents of books, candy, stickers and photos to the orphans; then signed autographs and invited the group to the air and trade show the following day. (Photo by Capt. Nathan Broshear)

Capt. Sam Joplin, the F-15 West Coast Demonstration Team pilot, observes a child’s reaction upon receiving a coloring book from visiting Airmen. Airmen visited and ate lunch with staff and children at the ALDEAS SOS home near Medellin, Colombia during planned community outreach events associated with the RIO NEGRO air and trade show. More than 25 Airmen gave presents of books, candy, stickers and photos to the orphans; then signed autographs and invited the group to the air and trade show the following day. (Photo by Capt. Nathan Broshear)

Children from Fundaci?n El Man?, watch in amazement as the F-15 West Coast Demonstration Team performs in the skies over the RIO NEGRO air and trade show near Medellin, Colombia.  Children from the non-profit organization, toured military aircraft and were given stickers, photos, books and other mementos by Airmen deployed in support of the event.   (Photo by Capt. Nathan Broshear)

Children from Fundaci?n El Man?, watch in amazement as the F-15 West Coast Demonstration Team performs in the skies over the RIO NEGRO air and trade show near Medellin, Colombia. Children from the non-profit organization, toured military aircraft and were given stickers, photos, books and other mementos by Airmen deployed in support of the event. (Photo by Capt. Nathan Broshear)

Master Sgt. Carlos Rivera, an F-15 crew chief with the 33rd Fighter Wing, gives a Spanish language tour of the F-15C Eagle for children of Fundaci?n El Man?, a local charitable organization focused on assisting disadvantaged children, at the RIO NEGRO air and trade show near Medellin Colombia.  Children from the non-profit organization, toured military aircraft before watching the F-15 West Coast Demonstration Team perform.  Afterwards, members of the team signed autographs and took photos with the VIP guests. (Photo by Capt. Nathan Broshear)

Master Sgt. Carlos Rivera, an F-15 crew chief with the 33rd Fighter Wing, gives a Spanish language tour of the F-15C Eagle for children of Fundaci?n El Man?, a local charitable organization focused on assisting disadvantaged children, at the RIO NEGRO air and trade show near Medellin Colombia. Children from the non-profit organization, toured military aircraft before watching the F-15 West Coast Demonstration Team perform. Afterwards, members of the team signed autographs and took photos with the VIP guests. (Photo by Capt. Nathan Broshear)

Maj. Jason Koltes hands out mementos to injured Columbian military veterans on Sunday, July 2. Major Koltes is the commander and a pilot for the F-16 Fighting Falcon Viper East aerial demonstration team. The team was in Colombia for the Rio Negro air show. (U.S. Air Force photo/1st Lt. Christina Mundy)

Maj. Jason Koltes hands out mementos to injured Columbian military veterans on Sunday, July 2. Major Koltes is the commander and a pilot for the F-16 Fighting Falcon Viper East aerial demonstration team. The team was in Colombia for the Rio Negro air show. (U.S. Air Force photo/1st Lt. Christina Mundy)

Maj. Jason Koltes hands out mementos to injured Columbian military veterans on Sunday, July 2. Major Koltes is the commander and a pilot for the F-16 Fighting Falcon Viper East aerial demonstration team. The team was in Colombia for the Rio Negro air show. (U.S. Air Force photo/1st Lt. Christina Mundy)

Maj. Jason Koltes hands out mementos to injured Columbian military veterans on Sunday, July 2. Major Koltes is the commander and a pilot for the F-16 Fighting Falcon Viper East aerial demonstration team. The team was in Colombia for the Rio Negro air show. (U.S. Air Force photo/1st Lt. Christina Mundy)

Staff Sgt. Darren Pautz, an F-15 crew chief with the F-15 West Coast Demonstration Team performs pre-flight communications with the pilot, Capt. Sam Joplin, during the RIO NEGRO air and trade show in Medellín, Colombia. The Demonstration Team celebrated 25 years of service during RIO NEGRO by performing for audiences at the Medellín International Airport for six days, thrilling an audience estimated at more than 100,000 Colombian citizens. (Photo by Capt. Nathan Broshear)

Staff Sgt. Darren Pautz, an F-15 crew chief with the F-15 West Coast Demonstration Team performs pre-flight communications with the pilot, Capt. Sam Joplin, during the RIO NEGRO air and trade show in Medellín, Colombia. The Demonstration Team celebrated 25 years of service during RIO NEGRO by performing for audiences at the Medellín International Airport for six days, thrilling an audience estimated at more than 100,000 Colombian citizens. (Photo by Capt. Nathan Broshear)

MEDELLÍN, COLOMBIA (AFPN) -- Airmen from Twelfth Air Force (Air Forces Southern), the 33rd Fighter Wing and 305th Air Mobility Wing, visited the ALDEAS SOS orphanage outside Medellín, Colombia Thursday (26 June); leaving the flight line of the RIO NEGRO air and trade show to meet members of the local community and learn about the plight of children in partner nations.

ALDEAS SOS, an international non-profit organization devoted to caring for orphaned and abandoned children, welcomed the group of more than 25 Airmen for a lunchtime visit inside the 13 dedicated casitas (or 'little homes' in English). Each building within the compound is home to 10 children and two female caregivers, called "tia" ( or "aunt" in English) by their charges. The group homes are built and maintain with the help of donations and volunteer workers -- often Air Forces Southern Airmen.

After delivering gifts and mementos to the eager children, pairs of Airmen joined caregivers and children in their casista for a group meal and exchange. Over lunch, children were able to have individualized attention and ask questions directly to Airmen. Some questions focused on life in the Air Force, others on personal details such as eye color or what various patches symbolized.

The orphans and abandoned children at the ALDEAS SOS facility come from across the various Colombian provinces, many displaced due to years of war with rebels in rural areas of the country, explained the organization's director.

For members of the Air Force, the brief visit was an enlightening look into the lives of caregivers and the children they nurture.

"'Tias' are more than simply a live-in caregivers, these women have unconditional love for each of the children they live with," said Senior Master Sgt. Liz Reddish, a fuels superintendant from Twelfth Air Force (Air Forces Southern) at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz. "Even the older children take care of the younger ones... taking their role as siblings seriously...despite being from different backgrounds, these children are a family."

The visit moved Airmen to such an extent, they collectively decided to invite the organization to visit the air show venue the following day for an exclusive tour of the KC-10 Extender, followed by front row seats for the F-15 West Coast Demonstration Team's performance.

"The only time these energetic kids sat still was during the F-15 demonstration," joked Sergeant Reddish. "They were completely mesmerized by the aircraft -- afterwards it was hard to say goodbye as every one of the children kissed and hugged Airmen for more than 20 minutes."

For Airmen and their new Colombian friends, the two-day adventure was concluded with a tearful embrace and a well-known expression...."Gracias."

Social Media