Capt. Brandon Strong, 349th Air Refueling Squadron chief of safety, and Staff Sgt. Matthew Altheim, 22nd Security Forces NCOIC of corrections, helps Xavier, 8 years old, put on a flack vest during the”Big for a Day” event Aug. 12, 2011, at McConnell Air Force Base, Kan. McConnell has partnered with the Big Brothers Big Sisters for more than 25 years. Each year, the event offers new displays to help the children understand what Airmen do on a daily basis. (U.S. Air Force photo/ Senior Airman Courtney Witt)
Capt. Nicole Westmoreland, 349th Air Refueling Squadron flight commander, helps Ashlynn, 9, out of a fire suit during the “Big for a Day” Aug. 12, 2011, at McConnell Air Force Base, Kan. Children from the Sedgwick County chapter of Big Brothers Big Sisters visited McConnell to experience the mission of the 22nd Air Refueling Wing. (U.S. Air Force photo/ Senior Airman Courtney Witt)
First Lt. David Puchalla, 349th Air Refueling Squadron pilot, explains to Bob, 8, the mission of the KC-135 Stratotanker during the “Big for a Day” program Aug.12, 2011, at McConnell Air Force Base, Kan. The 349th ARS sponsored the event to help children from Big Brothers Big Sisters understand what Airmen do on a daily basis. (U.S. Air Force photo/ Senior Airman Courtney Witt)
Senior Airman Chris Reed, 344th Air Refueling Squadron boom operator, shows Jesse, 9, how KC-135 Stratotanker boom operators refuel aircraft during the “Big for a Day” event Aug. 12, 2011, at McConnell Air Force Base, Kan. With 63 assigned KC-135s, McConnell is the largest tanker base in the world. (U.S. Air Force photo/ Senior Airman Courtney Witt)
Children jump in the inflatable life raft during the “Big for a Day” event Aug. 12, 2011, at McConnell Air Force Base, Kan. Team McConnell hosted approximately 40 children from the Sedgwick County chapter of the Big Brothers Big Sisters organization. (U.S. Air Force photo/ Senior Airman Courtney Witt)
by Senior Airman Abigail Klein
22nd Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs
8/16/2011 - MCCONNELL AIR FORCE BASE, Kan. -- As they clamored around tables trying on helmets and jumping up and down on 20-man life rafts, more than 25 "Littles" met their "Big" for a day, they also experienced a day in the life of an Airman.
The Sedgwick County chapter of Big Brothers Big Sisters recently visited McConnell Aug. 12, 2011, for the annual "Big for a Day" event, sponsored by the 349th Air Refueling Squadron.
While here, the Littles were matched with Airman Bigs. The Airmen helped the children try on flight helmets, tour the insides of a humvee and KC-135 Stratotanker, sit on an inflatable life raft and view an explosive ordnance disposal robot in action.
The display of Air Force career opportunities is one of the reasons that BBBS continues to participate in the event, according to said Mark Eby, Big Brothers Big Sisters executive director for Sedgwick County
"This event really exposes these kids to [opportunities] they didn't know about," he said. "A lot of these kids don't realize that they can become pilots."
The traditional military values are also a reason Eby brings the Littles to McConnell.
"This is a great way for them to not only learn about a career, but also provide them with the discipline they will need," said Eby.
The Airmen also benefit from the exchange. Airman 1st Class Roger Marchese, 22nd Comptroller Squadron budget analyst, said he enjoyed meeting his Little, Adon.
"I wanted to do this after hearing about the kids," he said. "Being able to interact with them is really fun."
One of the Littles, Khloe, 11, also enjoyed the displays but it wasn't her favorite activity.
"I really liked spending time with [my big]; that's been the best part," she said.
The Airmen and their Littles ended the day bowling at McConnell's Tornado Alley, relaxing and learning more about each other.
This was the fourth consecutive year that McConnell hosted the event. Despite the current Air Force operations tempo and increased deployments, the importance of having the Airmen spend time and possibly becoming permanent matches with the Littles was reason enough to hold the event again, said Lt. Col. Jeffrey Goggin, 349th ARS commander.
"This event really gives these kids a sense of what McConnell does," he said. "It is also a great way to give back to a community that does a great job of taking care of us."
McConnell has been involved with BBBS for more than 20 years, playing an influential role in the lives of Littles. McConnell continues as one of the organizations biggest contributors, Eby said.