KIRTLAND AIR FORCE BASE, New Mexico --
A cool breeze swept through the air on the flight line, but the cold weather wouldn’t match the warmth of laughter and smiles that filled area. Pairs of feet marched across the chilled pavement at a fast rate, moving to and from different aircraft to see what could be done next. These weren’t maintainers or pilots doing pre- and post-flight checks, but kids experiencing life as a 58th Special Operations Wing Airmen.
The 58th SOW partnered with the Children’s Cancer Fund of New Mexico, to give children who were diagnosed with cancer an opportunity to leave the hospital and experience life in their wing. Children from the Presbyterian and University of New Mexico children’s hospitals visited the 58th SOW Dec. 21.
“Hearing some of the stories of what these families go through and having to deal with that at such a young age is eye opening, so we put together a day for them and their families to get out and see something different, something fun for them to do,” said Capt. Michael Tolzein, MC-130J pilot and deputy chief of scheduling in the 415th Special Operations Squadron.
Each child and their family were personally escorted to the flight line by Tolzein and were greeted by pilots, operators and aircraft upon their arrival.
A MC-130J, HH-60 PAVE Hawk, CV-22 Osprey and a UH-1N Huey were all on display for the visitors to photograph, explore and tour. At each static aircraft, the pilots and operators answered questions about the airframe, assisted the patrons with trying on gear and demonstrated how to properly use the gear.
After exploring the various aircraft, families then visited the sheet metal shop, where the visitors received a demonstration of it capabilities before being treated to a pizza, wraps, salads and cookies for lunch in a hanger.
Before leaving the event, parents expressed their thanks to the wing for putting on the event and giving their children a needed change in their schedules.
“To spend time with my son and his friends from the cancer center is awesome, they don’t get out and do very much because they are always in the hospital,” said Dolores Willis. “My son wants to join the military, so him experiencing this is awesome.”
The experience not only gave the children a chance to do something new and gain a better understanding of how the wing works, but also gave some of the Airmen extra motivation.
“I love kids and wanted to get more involved in the community,” said Staff Sgt. Zach Harmon, 58th Special Operations Wing MC-130J aircraft loadmaster. “I love the enthusiasm when they come on the plane, answering questions they have and telling them what I do on a day to day basis, makes the job feel a lot more worth it and it gives me more inspiration to keep doing what I am doing.”