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103rd proctors students through NOCTI

Members from the Conn. Air National Guard who volunteered their time as proctors for the National Occupational Certification Testing Institute look on as students test their skills at electronics at the State Armory in Hartford April 7, 2009.  (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Erin McNamara)

Members from the Conn. Air National Guard who volunteered their time as proctors for the National Occupational Certification Testing Institute look on as students test their skills at electronics at the State Armory in Hartford April 7, 2009. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Erin McNamara)

BRADLEY ANG BASE--East Granby, Conn. -- Last month, the Yankee Courier featured an article about the 103rd donating tools to local technical high schools in Conn. That donation was made possible only by the contacts created through the base's involvement with NOCTI. NOCTI is the National Occupational Certification Testing Institute evaluation where seniors from technical schools get tested in their career fields, allowing the educational system to baseline their teaching programs.
     This program consists of various members of the Conn. Guard serving as proctors, testing state technical school students in fields such as: electronics, electrical, plumbing, automotive, computers and hairdressing. This testing is consolidated and performed at the state armory's drill pad floor where all the students are bussed in to take their test.
     What we are doing when we come in is correcting variations and bias in the NOCTI testing by providing the same proctors each year, said Chief Master Sgt. Albert Parent, avionics superintendent, 103rd Avionics Flight. "This way, they can have reliable data to correct the way they teach," he said.
     "Originally speaking to schools on the electronics side and connecting with kids, I took some recruiting tools, gave them feedback and showed them how they can use their trade in the future. It started off working with the recruiters a very long time ago," Parent said.
     Eventually, Parent was approached to become a proctor for the NOCTI testing. He would go from school to school and it wasn't long before he got the idea to incorporate other guard members into this volunteer program. An e-mail went out and soon a team came together that traveled to the participating Conn. Technical schools to help proctor. Soon, the question was asked if this proctoring could be done at a centralized location. Parent elected the state armory drill pad floor in Hartford and, ever since, the NOCTI testing has been held there.
     I thought that was pretty cool because, now, the kids got the chance to come to the state capital and see the military picture without it being a direct recruiting event but more as a mentoring thing, Parent said.
     "You've got to find scenarios that create that mentoring. This is one of those. Whether the person is a Senior Airman and he's working with an 18-year-old, the 18-year-old gets to realize that the Senior Airman isn't much older than me. Or whether it's an old fart like me who's 58 years old," said Parent, "they get to see the diversity we have. I want people to understand there are women, there are people of different origins that work for us and that we have skill sets that extend from what they are already doing."
     Along with being able to see the diverse backgrounds that comprise the Conn. Guard, they also get the chance to connect the military with various jobs and technical expertise. The business information processing test, conducted here at the Joseph Wadsworth Dining Hall, is a NOCTI test that gauges technical students in the field of computer information systems, such as Microsoft Office.
     Tech. Sgt. Michelle Wink, wing knowledge operations functional manager, 103rd Communications Flight, heads the testing for this career field.
     According to Wink, last year, there were some classes that came on base. We had this one group that was very nervous to come onto a military installation. Very sheepish, very nervous, heads down, she said. As the day went on and the more we reacted with them and talked with them, the more jovial and joking and calm they became. Because, they realized we were not going to yell or scream at them. A couple of them thought we were going to yell at them all day, Wink said.
     Besides showing these kids that the air guard is not all basic training, the NOCTI testing also offers proctors the opportunity to answer questions these students have about their careers and what the military offers.
     "At school, they only get about 30 minutes for lunch, here we try to give them at least an hour and we spend that time--I don't want to say recruiting them--but showing them what they're doing is something I do on a day-to-day basis. And yes, it correlates to what you're doing and what you're learning, to what you could be doing in the military," said Wink. "We offer them the opportunity and let them know that we are here and to show them that we just don't run around crawling under wires shooting a gun. I could tell them about any job they could think of. I was able to rattle off 60 jobs they could do in the air guard."
     How does an automobile mechanic make the leap to become an aircraft engine mechanic, asked Parent? Or, how does he make the leap to the AGE shop?
     All the kids needed to know is, the air guard exists. Now they can take the education they got in high school and transfer to the air guard. You are showing them there is a path, another step to continue their trade, said Parent.
     "For automotive, these kids would have to go to another school, a Baron Institute, something of that nature, or a Porter and Chester and fork over some big bucks to get some more training," said Senior Master Sgt. Shawn Roberts, superintendent, 103rd Aerospace Ground Equipment.
     With the NOCTI program catering to around 750 students last year, the potential for recruiting is exponential.
     According to Parent, with the aviation career field starving in many ways, the guard has stiff competition to recruit against the commercial airline companies and the active duty, and the guard doesn't have the budget. We have one strength the active will never match, he said. We can show them where they will work, the shop chief that runs the shop they will be in, and they will return home to Conn. after tech school.
     "Just by talking to those 20 kids each day, we were able to open their eyes a little more, to realize that we are here," said Wink.