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Connecticut students explore National Guard careers

Master Sgt. Dennis Coughlin, aircraft ground equipment technician, explains the function and purpose of equipment to support flight mobility May 12, 2016, during a Career Day hosted at Bradley Air National Guard Base, East Granby, Conn. Students discussed military careers with Air National Guardsmen during their visit to the 103rd Airlift Wing. (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Erin McNamara)

Master Sgt. Dennis Coughlin, aircraft ground equipment technician, explains the function and purpose of equipment to support flight mobility May 12, 2016, during a Career Day hosted at Bradley Air National Guard Base, East Granby, Conn. Students discussed military careers with Air National Guardsmen during their visit to the 103rd Airlift Wing. (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Erin McNamara)

Master Sgt. Dennis Coughlin, aircraft ground equipment technician, explains the function and purpose of equipment to support flight mobility May 12, 2016, during a Career Day hosted at Bradley Air National Guard Base, East Granby, Conn. Students discussed military careers with Air National Guardsmen during their visit to the 103rd Airlift Wing. (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Erin McNamara)

Master Sgt. Dennis Coughlin, aircraft ground equipment technician, explains the function and purpose of equipment to support flight mobility May 12, 2016, during a Career Day hosted at Bradley Air National Guard Base, East Granby, Conn. Students discussed military careers with Air National Guardsmen during their visit to the 103rd Airlift Wing. (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Erin McNamara)

Staff Sgt. Andrew Faust, security forces specialist, explains safe use and handling of military-issued weapons to visiting Jr. R.O.T.C. students May 12, 2016, during a Career Day event hosted at Bradley Air National Guard Base, East Granby, Conn. The interaction with troops from the 103rd Security Forces Squadron was a highlight for students participating in Career Day events. (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Erin McNamara)

Staff Sgt. Andrew Faust, security forces specialist, explains safe use and handling of military-issued weapons to visiting Jr. R.O.T.C. students May 12, 2016, during a Career Day event hosted at Bradley Air National Guard Base, East Granby, Conn. The interaction with troops from the 103rd Security Forces Squadron was a highlight for students participating in Career Day events. (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Erin McNamara)

BRADLEY AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, East Granby, Conn. -- The colorful crowd exploring the military aircraft on the flight line at Bradley Air National Guard Base is a reminder of the first days of basic military training.  The young faces are quietly curious and the wardrobe includes every color in the rainbow.  In those first days of basic training prior to uniform issue and still clothed in "civies," or civilian clothing, the group of recruits that trains together is known as a "Rainbow Flight."
     Unlike those early days of basic training, this crowd was encouraged to ask questions and get hands on with specialized equipment during a visit with Connecticut Guardsmen Thursday at the 103rd Airlift Wing.  For most in attendance, the Career Day event hosted by Connecticut Air National Guard recruiters was a first encounter with military operations.
     Master Sgt. Sylvia Kirchner, Connecticut Air National Guard Recruiting and Retention Manager, explained the significance of hosting an interactive tour of the installation for high school students.
     "Through Career Day, we show our high school kids what the Air National Guard does in Connecticut," Kirchner said.  "It's a great opportunity for them to ask specific questions not of the recruiting team but of the members who are actually doing those jobs here."
     Students, educators and guidance counselors from six local schools spent four hours visiting the installation, meeting with Airmen to discuss their specialties and explore their questions during a catered lunch.  Interactive displays helped the Airmen to demonstrate their skills for the attentive audience.  Kirchner said that the event helps potential candidates witness what can't be offered during an office visit with a recruiter.
     "We're trying to give them the opportunity to see what we do behind the scenes.  Sometimes a textbook answer is not good enough for us, so we try to put them in front of the members who actually do that job and also they'll have the opportunity to get hands-on experience."
     A wide cross section of the state's military specialties was represented at the event that spanned one side of the flight line and the headquarters parking lot on base.  Maintenance, support and aircraft operations specialists provided expert demonstrations and descriptions of the jobs that they perform and the experience they've gained during their service. 
     According to Kirchner, the students were an enthusiastic audience.  "The students are great," she said.  "They're not afraid to ask the questions that they're coming up with.  They're listening and actually absorbing what they hear and touching the equipment.  They've been very responsive and we're hoping that when they leave today they'll think about what they have seen and reach out to us for more information."
     The educators and guidance counselors who accompanied the students during the visit play an integral role in the event's success.
     "To me, the educators are the greatest point of contact that we can establish with the students," Kirchner said.  "They're going to take a lot of information away from today and share that not only with the students who are here but also the students and educators that couldn't come today."