SHEPPARD AIR FORCE BASE, Texas – The 82nd Training Group hosted students from Booker T. Washington Elementary School on May 14, 2021, as part of their Black History Month visit which was cancelled in February due to the winter storm affecting most of Texas.
Booker T. Washington Elementary has a long history in Wichita Falls spanning from 1886 to present. Once a high school, this center for education has been a landmark of rich heritage within the African American community in town.
Students from the elementary came to Sheppard AFB and experienced the sights and sounds of an Air Force military installation. They were also able to learn about the great deal of diversity the branch has to offer with both its Airmen serving and some of the career fields they could aspire to be in.
The event was coordinated and planned in conjunction with the African American Heritage Committee here as a partnership between both the school and the base.
Tech. Sgt. Christian Cummings, a 361st Training Squadron aircrew flight equipment instructor and president of the committee, said hosting the students has been in the works for some time now.
“We wanted to bring them here to open up their eyes and know anything is possible. You can make something great of yourself here,” he said. “Some kids don’t always get to see good examples in their daily lives. I want to show these kids the Air Force has so much to offer and can give them something really amazing to look forward to.”
Cummings planned an exciting day for the students starting off with meeting the leadership team and Airmen of the 362nd TRS, followed by touring the training facilities. They finished the day at the flight line where they were able to get up close and personal with various aircraft supported by the squadron, a military police dog and firefighters visit, and lunch with the Airmen.
Col. John Lofton III, 82nd TRG commander, was one of the speakers lined up as the kids arrived on to the flight line. He spoke to them about the mission here at Sheppard as well as the diversity and endless possibilities for those wanting to be a part of the Air Force.
“Every puzzle has different pieces and every piece matters in the bigger picture of putting the puzzle together,” Lofton said. “For those people of color, I hope you are a prototype and not the stereotype. You don’t have to be what people say you are, you can be who you want to be, and we want to encourage that. The Airmen out here today are such a great example of that.”
The AAHC plans to continue partnership opportunities with the school as well as other events on and off base with the Wichita Falls community.
“I hope this committee only grows in to bigger and better things long after my time here. I think this partnership with our community is very needed,” Cummings said. “I’d love to come back one day and see that it’s taken off.”
Meetings are held the first Thursday of the month at Bldg. 1900 in the Non-Commissioned Officer Academy large conference room.