MCCONNELL AIR FORCE BASE, Kan. --
Team McConnell recently became the fourth Aviation Inspiration Mentorship Wing throughout the entire Air Force.
AIM is an Air Force outreach program that supports community engagement with a mission to inform, influence and inspire the next generation of Air Force aviators.
“The AIM program is an opportunity to give back to a city that continually gives so much to the entire McConnell community,” said Capt. Colton Wetzel, 22nd Air Refueling Wing AIM program director. “I want to share what was shared with me at that young age — the incredible awe and satisfaction of military aviation. It’s an investment in our nation’s future, but more importantly it is an investment in the lives of our local community’s youth.”
While the AIM program is new here, McConnell’s community engagement efforts with youth in and around the Air Capitol has been going strong for years. McConnell has supported the Civil Air Patrol, Junior Reserves Officers’ Training Corps, Kansas Starbase and local activities in recent months.
One of those visits was from the Air Force JROTC detachment from Dodge City Public Schools. The detachment brought 21 cadets to McConnell May 6-7, 2021, for a curriculum-in-action visit.
“The cadets loved the base visit. From the flightline to the Honor Guard, our interaction with all military and civilian personnel on the base was first rate,” said MSgt. Ray Gonzales of the Dodge City Public Schools AFJROTC program. “The importance of the visit for the cadets is immeasurable. We take for granted what is amazing to them! Just seeing an old aircraft taxi and take off is big stuff to the cadets. Hands on equipment and seeing military members in action can never be replaced by a text book.”
McConnell is looking to integrate as many organizations as possible to maximize the base and community engagement with AIM.
Detachment 1 of the Air Force Recruiting Service developed the AIM concept to further promote the Rated Diversity Improvement. RDI is a strategy that seeks to strengthen diversity in rated career fields in the Air Force.
Other than McConnell AFB, there are currently three more AIM Wings in existence: Eglin Air Force Base, Florida; Luke Air Force Base, Arizona; and MacDill Air Force Base, Florida. Installations across the Air Force like Vance Air Force Base, Oklahoma, are looking to initiate the process and become AIM Wings as well.
“This is an exciting moment, but only the beginning of our renewed investment in Wichita’s youth,” said Wetzel. “We expect to conduct outreach events at local schools, sporting events, youth mentorship programs, youth military and flight programs, and McConnell’s upcoming airshow - to name a few.”