Marine Corps Air Station Yuma, Ariz. -- Marine Corps Air Station Yuma, Ariz., hosted the inaugural “Intro to Devil Dogs 101” children’s tour with the help of Marines, volunteers, teachers, and parents from the local community. Over 270 children from four local elementary schools participated in the tour which started at Ramada Field at 9 a.m. and lasted until 2 p.m., finishing on the flight line with a splash May 8.
Immaculate Conception Parochial School, Palmcroft Elementary, Otondo Elementary and Desert View Charter School participated in the event with students in second through fifth grades. Several of the schools had students attending who are military children with active duty parent(s) and this was a chance for them to share their parent’s military training with fellow classmates.
The Intro to Devil Dogs tour also provided a chance for Marines to explain and bridge the gap of how being in the military differs from civilian life. This peek into the daily life of a Marine began at Ramada Field on the air station with a welcoming brief from Marine Aircraft Group 13 Commanding Officer Col. Michael Gough. He thanked the students, teachers and Marine volunteers for being a part of the event and talked about the different aircraft that are flown aboard MCAS Yuma.
The morning’s events included a mini-combat fitness course, a land navigation workshop, an explosive ordinance disposal demonstration (no actual explosions included), military working dogs K-9 education brief and an Obstacle Course demonstration.
"Working with the kids is great, they're a lot of fun," said Lance Cpl. Eli Alvarado, a Headquarters and Headquarters Squadron search and rescue airframe mechanic and a native of Baldwin, NY. "One of them actually asked if the grenade would really explode."
“It’s been amazing and the kids are all having so much fun to see all the obstacles,” said Trisha Gebhart, a second grade elementary teacher at Otondo Elementary School. “They’re just all very excited and love the EOD robots and thought it was very cool and they loved the dogs.”
MAG-13, Headquarters and Headquarters Squadron, Combat Logistics Company 16, Marine Attack Squadron 311 and Marine Wing Support Squadron 371 Marines volunteered their time for the event, worked with the children and rotated through stations from the land navigation to the obstacle course demonstration.
“They work very well with them,” said Gebhart. “They even got on their hands and knees to work with them and are patient with the small groups.”
After the morning’s activities, the children from the multiple schools took a break to have a field lunch with the Marines to answer any questions the youngsters might have.
Other activities in the afternoon included static aircraft displays of fighter jets, helicopters and ground vehicles on the flight line, and a fire suppression demonstration.
Intro to Devil Dogs was a chance for the school children to view aircraft up close and even sit in a search and rescue UH-1Y helicopter. The children were also able to talk to aircraft pilots and crew members and view a demonstration of fire suppression from the station aircraft rescue and fire fighting personnel. To top off the day, the students were able to don the gear the aircraft rescue and fire fighting personnel use during fire suppression of an aircraft.
“It’s a good time to see the kids out here and they get to learn what goes on,” said Captain Lear Williams, a pilot with Marine Attack Squadron 211 (VMA 211), when describing how teaching and instructing students on what the Harrier AV-8B is and what it does for MCAS Yuma and the Marine Corps.
“Half of the class says they would like to be a Marine,” said Gebhart. “There are at least eight to ten kids that have parents or a family member in the military in my class, so they know a little about it, so they loved seeing it all.”
As the tour ended and the kids filed back on their buses after a long day with the Marines, each child took away not only memories of today, but a better understanding of life as a Marine.