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Lift Off! 106th Takes Community Engagement to New Heights!

  • Published
  • By Maj. Michael O'Hagan
  • 106th Rescue Wing

F.S. GABRESKI AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, N.Y.– Sixteen guidance counselors and officials from Long Island schools got a chance to get up close and personal with the people and mission of the 106th Rescue Wing during an HH-60 Pave Hawk flight at F.S. Gabreski Air National Guard Base in Westhampton Beach, N.Y. on Thursday Nov. 10.

Guidance counselors from Islip, East Islip, West Islip, Connetquot, Patchogue, Medford and Longwood took part in the civic leader orientation flight.

Along with the flight, they learned about the 106th Rescue Wing and what makes the Air National Guard different from active-duty Air Force.

“This civic leader flight is incredibly important because it enables us to showcase our mission, capability and professionalism of our Airmen to the local population… High School guidance counselors and administrators are especially positioned civic leaders who can share their positive experience with parents, students or other faculty members,” said Col. Glyn B. Weir, the Mission Support Group commander.

“It is critical for any Air National Guard Wing to foster a positive relationship with the local community because we are citizen soldiers, made from the very members of the community we serve,” Weir added.

Most of the guidance counselors said they didn’t know much about the 106th or the Air National Guard.

“Students need to become much more aware of the Air National Guard and especially, the 106th Rescue Wing… the opportunity for personal growth and maturity and just life advancement that exist out here I think are unmatched… and more students need to become aware,” said Dennis Patrick O’Hara, the superintendent of the Islip Union Free School District.

Each 30 minute flight in the rescue helicopter took four counselors out to the Montauk Lighthouse, some over the Long Island Sound and some hugging the South Shore, which was was exciting, O’Hara said.

“It was exhilarating. I mean it was really great. The views and how smooth the helicopter was and how stable it felt. I’ve never been a helicopter before so it was just a great experience,” he said.

The visitors also learned about the structure of the wing, the mission sets and the many different career paths offered by the wing and the educational and other benefits made available to those who join.

The Air National Guard provides young people a chance to gain valuable work experience and increase their level of maturity while securing educational benefits that will allow them to return to their academic pursuit in some instances, debt-free according to the briefing providing by the 106th recruiting team.

“I think a lot of it surprised me,” said Jennifer Salvaggio, a school counselor from East Islip High School.

“I really had no idea what the National Guard does… and what opportunities are available to our young men and women that may be want to give a little back to our community,” she said.

On the same day, the 106th Rescue Wing hosted their largest career fair to date with over 350 students in attendance.

Today we hosted various high schools throughout Suffolk County and Staten Island, said Tech Sgt. Christopher Gee, 106th Rescue Wing Recruiter. We invited the students in for a briefing, gave them the features and benefits of the New York Air National Guard and the Air Force as a whole and described how these benefits can be applied to their personal and professional life, Gee added.

After the briefing, the students walked down to Hangar B where they were exposed to various career fields.

"Pararescue jumpers were one of the main attractions along with security forces," and civil engineering, explained Gee. A lot of the students did not know that we had an emergency response career field available and were intrigued with the display.

This was the most successful career day we had so far, he said.

"All the students and guidance counselors including teachers, were impressed at our capabilities and didn’t know we were out here," Gee explained. It was nice to share our story and our mission set with our local community and students.

The 106th Rescue Wing, based in F.S. Gabreski Air National Guard Base in Westhampton Beach, New York, operates and maintains the HC-130J Combat King II search and rescue aircraft, and the HH-60G Pave Hawk rescue helicopter. The 106th Rescue Wing is home to a special warfare squadron with pararescuemen and combat rescue officers, specializing in rescue and recovery, and deploys for domestic and overseas operations.