Local youths learn about aviation careers at Kentucky Air National Guard Base

140620-Z-DI861-047

Tech. Sgt. David Clark, an aircrew flight equipment specialist for the Kentucky Air National Guard, answers questions from a group of local youths during a base-wide tour at the 123rd Airlift Wing in Louisville, Ky., on June 20, 2014. The visit was part of an aviation camp sponsored by the Organization of Black Aerospace Professionals designed to stimulate interest in the aerospace community. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Senior Airman Joshua Horton)

By Senior Airman Joshua Horton, 123rd Airlift Wing Public Affairs

KENTUCKY AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, LOUISVILLE, Ky. – About 80 youths from the Louisville area spent June 20 touring the 123rd Airlift Wing to learn more about aviation-related careers at the Kentucky Air National Guard.

140620-Z-DI861-119

Local youth operate an Explosive Ordinance Disposal robot during a tour of the Kentucky Air National Guard’s 123rd Airlift Wing in Louisville, Ky., on June 20, 2014. The visit was part of an aviation camp sponsored by the Organization of Black Aerospace Professionals designed to stimulate interest in the aerospace community. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Senior Airman Joshua Horton)

The tour, which included a static display of C-130 Hercules aircraft and simulations that allowed participants to operate an explosive ordnance disposal robot, was part of a week-long Summer Aviation Career Education Academy sponsored by the Organization of Black Aerospace Professionals.

“The 123rd Airlift Wing pulled out the red carpet and exposed not only the jobs, but the career paths that people can take,” said Lt. Col. Jeff Harrison, a C-130 pilot in the Kentucky Air National Guard and a member of OBAP. “We communicated how the kids needed to start assembling their steps in order to obtain the same career track. It was a great showing.”

According to Harrison, exposing the youth to what the Air Guard has to offer nurtures both communities.

140607-Z-DI861-068

A group of local youths tour the flight line of the Kentucky Air National Guard Base in Louisville, Ky., on June 20, 2014. The visit was part of an aviation camp sponsored by the Organization of Black Aerospace Professionals designed to stimulate interest in the aerospace community. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Senior Airman Joshua Horton)

“We start at the ground level,” Harrison said. “If you pique the interest of the youth while they’re in their formative years, you have a semi-finished product by the time they come out of high school. Then in turn, the community replenishes the attrition the Guard normally gets with retirements.”

The Kentucky Air National Guard has been a part of the aviation camp for almost two decades now, promoting aviation opportunities to inner-city youths, said Col. Ken Dale, the 123rd’s maintenance group commander and an instrumental leader in forming the partnership between the Air Guard and camp organizers.

140607-Z-DI861-140

Staff Sgt. Dustin Turner, a member of the Kentucky Air National Guard’s Explosive Ordinance Disposal Flight, explains EOD protective equipment to a group of local youths during a base-wide tour at the 123rd Airlift Wing in Louisville, Ky., on June 20, 2014.  (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Senior Airman Joshua Horton)

“The kids come in and get excited about aviation and flying and continuing their education because they want to be a pilot or they want to be in aviation,” Dale said. “Sometimes, the kids don’t have the means to go to college. We tell them about our program that can help pay for their educations and they come join the Guard.”

Founded in 1976, OBAP is a non-profit organization dedicated to enhancing, advancing and promoting educational opportunities in aviation and aerospace, as well as developing and sustaining a process for the ongoing mentoring of youth. In addition to the aviation camp, OBAP offers scholarships, aviation education programs and flight training instruction.

About kentuckyguard