Airmen Visit Local Brazilian School
By Staff Sgt. Michael Matkin, CRUZEX V Public Affairs
/ Published November 12, 2010
NATAL AIR BASE, Brazil -- U.S. Airmen participating in the Brazilian lead multi-national exercise CRUZEX V spent time yesterday with students at a local school here.
A group of more than 15 airmen visited Eliah Maia do Rego Elementary School. During the visit, the airmen interacted with the students on an informal basis distributing small gifts and taking group pictures.
"Everybody was real excited to be with you and of course they also really enjoyed receiving the gifts; however, they especially enjoyed having the chance to talk with all of you and ask questions," said Albino Sobrinnho, a principal of another school who came out to the event to assist the local principal because she doesn't speak English.
One of the visiting airmen agreed. "I loved interacting with the kids, they were a lot of fun to be around and they all had smiles on their faces," said Senior Airman Shawn Whetstone, 140th Wing fuel systems mechanic. "It was really fun when they sang Happy Birthday to one of the airmen in both Portuguese and English and you could tell that the kids were having fun singing as well."
The visit wasn't just entertaining it was also educational, said Allan Michael Jalescoutinho, a student at the school, who said he has learned English from talking with English speakers at his church. "It was a real pleasure having the occasion to visit with you. It is has been a very good opportunity for me and the rest of the students to expound our world view."
"Expanding the world view and improving relations between countries is one of the primary purposes of the U.S. Air Force's participation in CRUZEX V," said Lt. Col. Paul Aguirre, 161st Air Refueling Wing executive officer and acting public affairs officer for the exercise.
"We have had the opportunity to build relationships on a military level with Brazil and other countries, but this was an opportunity to build relationship on an interpersonal level," said Chaplain (Lt. Col.) Ron Prosise, 140th Wing chaplain. "It was a good opportunity to leave these students with a very good impression of who we are, not only as a military, but as individual Americans."
Principal Sobrinnho agreed, "This exchange of information is also important for our relations. For the students, it is interaction and understanding between Brazilians and Americans; it is very important for their education. It is especially important because of globalization. This sharing of cultures means we are now closer through a shared culture."
After the event the airmen said it was one of the best parts of the trip.
"It made me proud to be in the Air Force and the Air National Guard," said Airman Whetstone. "It was for opportunities like this that I joined."
CRUZEX V, or Cruzeiro Do Sul (Southern Cross), is a multi-national combined exercise involving the Air Forces of Argentina, Brazil, Chile, France and Uruguay, and observers from numerous other countries with more than 82 aircraft and almost 3,000 Airmen involved.
The two-week exercise focuses on building strong partnerships with Airmen from across Latin America and France while ensuring that Airmen are prepared to assist the international community as part of U.N.-type coalition efforts.
The USAF units participating are: The 161st Air Refueling Wing, Phoenix, Arizona, flying a KC-135 and the 140th WG, Buckley, Colorado, flying six F-16s, along with members of Air Forces Southern.