Community learns DNG mission first hand

New Castle, Del. -- On October 20th, the Delaware National Guard conducted a Center of Influence Orientation and airlift. This event is conducted several times each year and provides an opportunity for members of the community to learn more about the Delaware National Guard and interact with our Soldiers and Airmen. The highlight is an orientation flight in a military aircraft.

Approximately thirty organizations were represented by members and leadership during this event. At the start of the day visitors received a welcome from DNG leadership including Maj. Gen. Frank Vavala, adjutant general, Delaware National Guard; Brig. Gen. Carol Timmons, assistant adjutant general - Air, Delaware National Guard-Air; and Col. Robert Culcasi, commander, 166th Airlift Wing.

Vavala highlighted a variety of areas that make the DNG an important entity within the National Guard and the military as a whole during a presentation. "The Guard is constitutionally unique in that we are the only military entity with both a federal and state mission," said Vavala. "We can accomplish both missions because we are interwoven into the very fabric of our state. We live and work in the local community. We have every profession you can think of working as members of our National Guard and have responded to every call - both at home and overseas."

During the morning opener, Lt. Col. Angela Showell, deputy plans and polices, Delaware National Guard, introduced cadets who have demonstrated hard work and dedication while participating in the Capital Guardian Youth Challenge Academy.

The DNG and CGYCA partnered together with the goal of providing Delaware youth with opportunities for self-improvement, personal growth, and academic achievement. The partnership offered a military structured environment that integrated mentorship, training, educational activities, and extracurricular activities to the cadets.

"This past July cadets enrolled in a 22-week residential program, and will graduate December 12, 2016. The cadets have participated in components that include leadership-followership, mental health fitness, and academics. They have been working towards successfully completing the General Education Development program by the time they graduate," said Showell. "Cadets have a follow-on mentorship component with mentors that they have met throughout the duration of the program."

Cadets spoke to the audience about their participation in the Summer Youth Challenge, and provided insight about why they joined the program. Following morning introductions and exchanges between visitors and DNG staff, cadets and COI visitors were given a tour of the 166th Airlift Wing firehouse, and visited the DNG Army Aviation Support Facility.

Tech Sgt. Samantha Power, 142d aeromedical evacuation technician, said "It was rewarding to educate and inspire new cadets about the aeromedical evacuation mission, and also show Delaware's local leadership our working environment and patient evacuation process at the Center of Influence."

Through the conclusion of the day COI guests rode aboard a C130H aircraft. Colonel Culcasi was the pilot of the aircraft. Members of the 166th Operations Group and 142d AES greeted all guests upon arrival to the Delaware ANG airfield. Chris Coons, United States Senator for Delaware, joined other COI guests for the flight.

"I've been looking forward to my first flight with the Delaware Air National Guard aboard a C130H," said Sen. Coons.

Guests were given safety instructions throughout all phases of the flight. Once in flight, guests had the opportunity to move around the aircraft, view out the windows, mingle together, and speak with members of the aircrew. The flight allowed members of the community to get a glimpse of military flight staff in action. Guest Silvia Veitia, head of customer experience, Barclay Card, stated, "I have gained a huge appreciation for the work the entire National Guard does every day. You have my gratitude and appreciation."

During the COI flight members of the 142d AES performed in-flight training, and interacted with passengers. Tech. Sgt. Erin McGillian, health service technician, has participated in a COI flight once before and shared her thoughts on this mission.

"The Center of Influence is a great opportunity to educate our civilian leadership on the importance of our mission on both a local and global level," said McGillian. COI is an event that connects the local community with their local military neighbors, leadership, and state representatives; this event will potentially grow and strengthen relationships.

Senator Coons expressed his appreciation to all COI members that put the event together.

"It was a remarkable experience to see all the components that go into a training flight like this and the focus on teamwork, communication, preparation. Thank you very much to Col. Robert Culcasi, flight crew members of the 142d Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron and 166th Operations Squadron," said Coons.