BARKSDALE AIR FORCE BASE, La. —
Reserve Citizen Airmen from the 307th Bomb Wing’s Civil Engineer Squadron at Barksdale Air Force Base, Louisiana, traveled to Woodbine, Iowa, recently to partner with the Defense Department’s Innovative Readiness Training program and the Ignite Pathways program to help construct a new 45,000-square-foot Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics education building designed to serve students throughout the state’s southwestern region.
The IRT program is a win-win where military members get critical training while helping local communities and nonprofits with civil engineer projects or medical missions.
“They need something finished, built or remodeled and we want to send our troops there to allow them to get experience,” said Chief Master Sgt. Kenneth Bennett, IRT project manager. “It gives them hands-on, real-world training.”
The 307th CES members received essential training while furthering the construction of the STEM building. Members from multiple CE backgrounds had tasks to complete during their time in Woodbine.
“This project helps us to check off core tasks for our upgrade training that we need,” Senior Airman Ryan Collier said. “At the same time, it helps us know that we are a part of something bigger that will help the generations to come.”
Justin Wagner, Woodbine School District superintendent who also serves in the Iowa Air National Guard, came up with the Ignite Pathways program three years ago to help students experience hands-on learning that integrated STEM and core subjects into the curriculum.
To date, Ignite Pathways has helped hundreds of Iowa students prepare to advance their education by giving them job-ready skills. The program is set to expand to more than 80 programs in areas like marketing, agriculture, child care and construction.
“It’s offering things that students just wouldn’t get the opportunity to be offered in rural communities,” Wagner said. “It’s been a game changer.”
(Moore is assigned to the 307th Bomb Wing’s public affairs office.)