Inspiring tomorrow's heroes

  • Published
  • By 2nd Lt. Alexis Kula
  • Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst Public Affairs

“What do you want to be when you grow up?"

It's a question asked of most children at a young age. Some have dreams of becoming a doctor, pilot, firefighter or police officer, while others aren't quite sure. Yet, with a bit of exposure, perhaps they would consider life as a Soldier, Sailor, Airman, Marine or even a Guardian—where they could pursue their dreams through a diverse range of career opportunities.

The Student Engagement and Career Day held at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, New Jersey, April 19, 2024, exemplified the spirit of service, leaving a lasting impact on the eager young minds in attendance. With students K-12, Civil Air Patrol and ROTC detachments from the tri-state area, the event drew an impressive turnout, exposing nearly 2,200 individuals to military service opportunities.

Efforts driven by the 305th Air Mobility Wing’s Aviation Inspiration and Mentorship team, the event focused on addressing the national recruiting deficit by instilling a sense of duty and pride in the next generation. The volunteers provided an immersive experience that children found exciting and educational.

"This event is a testament to the power of teamwork with our joint and mission partners across JB MDL toward the common goal we share to inspire the next generation,” shared U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Kristopher Mack, 6th Airlift Squadron operations superintendent. "It was exciting to witness the enthusiasm from the students and see how much they enjoyed engaging with our service members, activities and aircraft as much as we enjoyed engaging with them. It was a good day!"

The ramp buzzed with excitement as students explored an assorted lineup of aircraft displays, interactive booths and eye-catching demonstrations representing various military branches and career fields. Crews and airframes from the 305th AMW, Marine Aircraft Group 49, New Jersey Army National Guard and 244th Expeditionary Combat Aviation Brigade lined the runway with inspiration. With troops from the 87th Air Base Wing, 621st Contingency Response Wing, Coast Guard Atlantic Strike Team and many more, the joint base rallied in full force to showcase their missions and equipment.

"The event surpassed our expectations in terms of turnout and engagement," said Master Sgt. Aisha Taylor, 305th Operations Support Squadron Aircrew Flight Equipment flight chief. “It was incredibly rewarding to see these young kids from diverse backgrounds come together with a shared sense of curiosity and potential interest to serving their country.”

Beyond the thrills and excitement, the event served a deeper purpose: raising awareness about the myriad of career opportunities available within the military.

“Our aim was to showcase not just aircraft and equipment, but the endless possibilities for personal and professional growth within the armed forces,” Taylor emphasized.

As the event drew to a close, the atmosphere remained charged with energy, serving as a heartfelt reminder of the lasting impression it left on children.

"The impact from the Student Engagement and Career Day will last beyond this one-day event; this was a bridge toward building our future, connecting with our community and inspiring the next generation in STEM and service," remarked Col. Elizabeth Hanson, 305th AMW commander. "Every service member who participated today, and there were close to 200, played a vital role in showcasing the limitless opportunities a life of service can provide. Shaping the next generation is evermore important for our nation today. Even if they don’t feel compelled to serve yet, I hope those who attended can remember this day fondly and feel connected to our military in a positive way."

In retrospect, the event stood as a day of inspiration, guiding the next generation toward a future filled with purpose, pride, and perhaps, a desire to serve.