POWIDZ AIR BASE, Poland — U.S. and Polish air force members welcomed nearly 100 secondary school students from the Zespol school district to Powidz Air Base, Poland, March 8, 2013.
The meet-and-greet, and base tour were sponsored by the Polish 33rd Air Transportation Base and U.S. Air Force Aviation Detachment 1, 52nd Operations Group based at Lask Air Base, Poland, with the help of aircrew and support personnel from the 37th Airlift Squadron, Ramstein Air Base, Germany. Members of the 37th were on hand to inform students of their purpose in Poland - building partnerships, and to show the C-130J Super Hercules' features and capabilities.
"I think it's important to show the people of Poland that the United States is an ally and we'd like to maintain a strong relationship," said Capt. Raymond Bevvino, 37th Airlift Squadron pilot from Arlington, Va. "One way to do that is to invite the local community to see our aircraft and show them what we're doing here and how we're committed to strengthening our enduring partnership with Poland."
According to USAF Maj. Matthew Spears, Av-Det commander, from Pueblo, Colo., it's important for the United States to take an active role in the local community in Poland, especially now that the U.S. has an enduring presence here with the recent activation of the Av-Det.
"We want to demonstrate that we value our communities; we want to make them part of what we do, so I think that today was an excellent opportunity to showcase that endeavor," Spears said.
Many of the students, hand selected for the tour, looked forward to meeting the pilots, viewing the aircraft and learning more about the United States' mission in Poland.
"The students were very excited," said Grazyna Beata, a Zespol Technical High School administrator and journalist from Wrzesnia, Poland. "Probably all of them want to be pilots."
This is the second community outreach project involving the Av-Det since it was established in October 2012 after a Memorandum of Understanding was signed by the Polish Minister of Defense.
A few weeks ago in Lodz, the Av-Det was involved in a school donation project sponsored by the U.S. Embassy. According to Spears, Av-Det members helped off-load and set up desks, chairs, bookcases, and bookshelves for some of the schools in the district.
"We took advantage of the opportunity to offer our help and interact with the local community," Spears said. "Many of the teachers had moved into their new desks before we were even finished unloading that day, so they were excited to receive the equipment and it was nice to see that they could use it."
The Av-Det's plan is to set up a community outreach event for each rotation of U.S. personnel and aircraft to Poland so they can have an opportunity to interact with the local community.
"We're making community outreach one of our priorities," the Av-Det commander said. "Our mission focus being mission, airmen and community — community plays a large role in what we do.”