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Tour helps school staff, others better understand base mission

Members of the Military Impacted School Association listen as Capt. Austin Fouts, 23rd Bomb Squadron B-52 pilot from Minot Air Force Base, N.D., on temporary duty at Ellsworth Air Force Base, S.D., answers questions about being a B-52 aviator during a tour of Ellsworth June 24, 2014. Administrators and faculty from across the nation had the opportunity to see and learn about the B-1 bomber and B-52 during a base tour. (U.S. Air Force photo by 2nd Lt. Rachel Allison/Released)

Members of the Military Impacted School Association listen as Capt. Austin Fouts, 23rd Bomb Squadron B-52 pilot from Minot Air Force Base, N.D., on temporary duty at Ellsworth Air Force Base, S.D., answers questions about being a B-52 aviator during a tour of Ellsworth June 24, 2014. Administrators and faculty from across the nation had the opportunity to see and learn about the B-1 bomber and B-52 during a base tour. (U.S. Air Force photo by 2nd Lt. Rachel Allison/Released)

ELLSWORTH AIR FORCE BASE, S.D. -- Airmen from the 28th Bomb Wing and Minot Air Force Base, N.D., collaborated recently to provide school staff from around the country a better understanding of the base's mission and spur conversation about the unique education challenges that rural families face.

Forty-four members of the Military Impacted School Association serving at school systems from Hawaii to Washington D.C. participated in the tour as part of the group's annual summer meeting June 24.

Kyle Fairbairn, MISA executive director, said the tour not only helps educate people about the work being done at Ellsworth, but also provides a good forum where members of school districts from across the country can discuss their challenges.

"The school district that hosts the meeting - in this case the Douglas School District - belong to MISA and serve very large concentrations of military children," Fairbairn said. "The meetings are intended to bring political, military and school system staff together to try and help all parties understand the importance of working succinctly to best meet the needs of the children of military members and afford them every opportunity to succeed."

He noted that being situated in a rural area provides Ellsworth with a very different situation in comparison to areas like San Diego, Hawaii and other large metropolitan areas.

"That is why these events are so valuable," he added.

During the tour, guests were able to participate in hands-on activities conducted by the 28th Civil Engineer Squadron's Explosive Ordnance Disposal section, received a unit mission briefing and were able to get up close to an Ellsworth B-1 bomber and a B-52 Stratofortress - an aircraft not assigned to the base.

Several B-52s and about 300 Airmen from Minot are temporarily assigned to Ellsworth while the runway there is being reconstructed. While the tour was intended to help school staff learn more, Airmen involved also garnered awareness of how the base is vital to providing expeditionary combat power.

"I enjoyed being able to show them the B-52," said Senior Airman Brad Long, 5th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron B-52 crew chief who has been on temporary duty at Ellsworth since March. "It's important that people know what all goes into keeping the B-52H combat ready - and we like to show it off. In doing so, we can help educate people about our mission and capabilities."

Long, a native of Calvert City, Kent., said he has only worked on B-52s and appreciated having the chance to learn more about the B-1 during the tour.

"Seeing the B-1 and B-52 next to each other was pretty cool," Long said. "Before this TDY and tour, I really have had nothing to compare it to. Now, I have a much greater understanding on how different our bomber is from other aircraft and have a better perspective of how they operate together. That was neat."
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