CAMP ZAMA, Japan (April 5, 2019) -- Cristion McNeil, a sixth-grader at John O. Arnn Elementary School, entered the U.S. Army Aviation Battalion Japan offices thinking he might have an interest in working with helicopters.

By the time he left 45 minutes later, he knew that was the case.

"I'm interested in putting things together; I like engineering," Cristion said. "(Visiting the battalion) increased my interest (in aviation) because it went into the details of how helicopters work and how I can possibly choose that as a career in the future."

Cristion was among about 50 sixth-graders from the school to visit 12 sites on Camp Zama to explore career possibilities April 4. The sites ranged from the 78th Signal Battalion to the Zama Commissary to the U.S. Army Japan Band. The students, who split up into groups based on their interests, had a list of prepared questions to ask representatives at each location.

Brooke Boswell, Camp Zama school liaison officer and organizer of the event, said this was the installation's seventh annual job shadowing event.

"It's important because it gives students their introduction to the world of work," Boswell said. "They can see up close and personal the day-to-day operations of all of the different agencies that volunteered for the event."

Steven Bright, a sixth-grader who visited the military working dogs and their handlers at the 901st Military Police Detachment, said he signed up for the visit because he saw it on the list and thought, "Hey look, it's dog handling. I could do that because I like dogs."

The visit increased his interest in the profession because he liked seeing how the dogs were able to run and chase people down, Steven said.

The demonstrations of how handlers wear heavy-duty jackets when practicing fugitive apprehensions, and how dogs escort suspects back to the handlers, also made him want to know more, Steven said.

"It increased my interest because I like dogs and I want to help them," Steven said. "They're my favorite animals."

Catie Lightfoot, on the other hand, said she liked the military working dog demonstration, but it didn't change her mind about her chosen profession.

"I still have my mind set on being a scientist," Catie said. "Maybe a volcanologist. I love studying volcanoes … It's unpredictable. It can be pretty dangerous and it would be nice to know how to warn everybody that (an eruption) was happening."

Sgt. 1st Class Michael Bending, assigned to the 901st MP Detachment, said he and all the handlers love what they do, and they were happy to show the students what they do for a living.

"I know when I was a child and I saw the dogs, I was like, 'That's awesome,' but I never really knew anything about it," Bending said. "And then as I got older and came into the military, I still didn't think about dog handling until somebody had offered it to me."

Hopefully, the visit showed the students a path forward if they want to handle military working dogs when they choose a career, Bending said.

Sgt. Maj. Kyle Clutter, who told students all about the U.S. Army Aviation Battalion Japan, said job-shadowing programs like this are important, particularly in a military community, because it gives students a chance to see what their mothers and fathers do during the day, as well as to develop goals.

"It gives (students) an idea or direction that they might want to travel toward," Clutter said.

During the visit, the students met Lt. Col. John Franz, the battalion's commander, and visited the helicopter hangar, Clutter said.

"We got them in the helicopters and let them touch and move things around," Clutter said. "I also took them to the back shops where there is a helicopter taken all apart and let them see the engines and the transmissions and all the technicians back there working."

After the visits, students gathered at the Camp Zama Youth Center before going back to school, and Boswell asked students what they liked about the event. Several students raised their hands.

"I liked when I was able to shoot the water hose," said one student who visited the fire station.

"We played a simulation of golf," said another student who visited the Camp Zama Golf Course.

"I liked it when we got to use the treadmill," said a student who visited the Yano Fitness Center to learn about sports management.

Boswell thanked all the organization representatives who helped her put together the event and said she hopes to expand it next year.

"It was a huge team effort from within the community," Boswell said.

Organizations interested in participating in next year's event can contact Boswell at DSN (315) 263-5441.