FORT HOOD, Texas-- Airmen assigned to the 11th Air Support Operations Squadron invited students from Wheatley Alternative Education Center to learn what it's like to be a Tactical Air Control Party (TACP) working with the U.S. Army and coordinating air attacks Dec. 14, 2017, here.
The students, ranging in grades from kindergarten to eighth grade, were ever curious as they tried on tactical gear, explored vehicles, and even flew planes during a simulation.
"It's been great. It gives our Airmen the opportunity to take it from the high-tech level to the low-tech level," Air Force Lt. Col. Frank Biancardi II, 11th ASOS commander, said about watching his Airmen interacting with and answering questions from the students.
Biancardi said that because they have adopted an alternative school, some of his Airmen, who have had their own struggles growing up, could relate on a personal level to the students and be a positive role model.
"A lot of our Airmen have similar stories. They've worked really hard to be a part of the [military] services and now they're benefitting from that and are becoming contributing citizens to the community," said Biancardi.
"My parents weren't the role models that I needed growing up," said Senior Airman Nicholas Ward, a TACP with 11th ASOS. "So being able to be that model for someone else is something I'm proud of that I can do."
Ward added, "It's very important to be involved with the community, they do so much for us and we just wanted a way to give back."
Being able to demonstrate their job in the Air Force to the students proved to be a fun experience all around as the students watched the simulated air attacks on a large screen and then later, tried their own hand at it.
"It was a lot of fun having them come out to see what we do," said Air Force Staff Sgt. Matt Marshall, a TACP with 11th ASOS. "Not a lot of people know about us or see what we do."
Biancardi explained that as joint terminal tact controllers, the Airmen are qualified and certified to control aircraft and to put weapons on targets.
With approximately 1200 TACPs working throughout the entire Air Force, their special skillsets are in high demand. Luckily, for the 3rd Cavalry Regiment, the 11th ASOS is able to provide the regiment with the coveted air support assets.
"We are aligned with Army units to make sure that the leadership at all levels has the appropriate air power that they may need for their scheme of maneuver," said Biancardi.
He added, "We're the connective tissue between the Air Force and the Army to make sure the Army gets what they need based on available Air Force assets within the greater fight."
The squadron will be joining the regiment in their upcoming deployment to the National Training Center at Fort Irwin, California, early next year.
In the meantime, the squadron looks forward to having many more future engagements with the students.
"We get a lot of support from the community. This is a way we can give back and pay it forward," said Biancardi.