A Letter From Lt. Gen. Charles E. Stenner Jr. (Ret), Chief of Air Force Reserve
The defense of our nation has long been guaranteed in part by innovation. Historically, bright minds in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) paved the way for securing our country. We were the first to break the sound barrier, travel to the moon, and pioneer the technology behind stealth aircraft. Such breakthroughs have kept our nation on the leading edge and ensured an era of unmatched advantage for the United States.
However, in recent years, America's footing in STEM education and expertise has slipped relative to our competitors. Recognizing the need for improvement in these areas, President Obama has made STEM education a national priority. I am confident we can reverse this trend by engaging our nation's youth early and ensuring they have a platform to grow their interests. The DoD STARBASE program does both by offering a solid STEM curriculum to our school-aged kids, and I enthusiastically support it.
Recently, I had the opportunity to meet with a group of local fifth graders at the Museum of Aviation in Warner Robins, Georgia. This occasion marked the 15th anniversary of "STARBASE Robins" which is locally sponsored by the Air Force Reserve Command. I found the kids extraordinarily inquisitive and most certainly primed to excel in the STARBASE setting. Over a five week period, these students are given 25 hours of instruction in the core STEM curriculum, which is reinforced with a great deal of hands-on exposure. Students have received pre-tests at the beginning of the program and post-tests upon program completion. The marked improvement in scores speaks volumes for the program and those teachers and mentors involved.
These programs are thriving at 60 locations in 34 states, and the Air Force Reserve is committed to fostering continued growth. We proudly sponsor multiple DoD STARBASE programs around the country and continually look for additional opportunities. In this capacity, we assist program staff with maintaining a non-profit corporation and provide facilities and services to support STARBASE academies. DoD STARBASE is also broadening the spectrum of available opportunities with a new initiative: DoD STARBASE 2.0.
This after-school mentoring program targets middle-school students and involves even closer ties with the local military installation, communities, and schools. Through this exchange, our service members have a unique opportunity to reinforce the importance of STEM education as it relates to their own experiences in the military. Moreover, this approach provides an opportunity for the military and local communities to further our collaborative relationships while providing a valuable experience to America's youth. This is a fantastic environment where students are encouraged by the positive influence and encouragement of our military members. Likewise, making a difference in a child's life is an intrinsic benefit our men and women in uniform are all too happy to accommodate.
By opening young minds through this tremendous educational program, our nation will no doubt make great strides in the years to come. My experience with this program has been extremely positive, and I am encouraged by the enthusiasm I see. We have created an environment that invites creativity, cultivates the imagination, and strengthens the tie between the military and local communities. In short, we are chartering a course to ensure our nation meets tomorrow's high-tech demands and providing our youth with a more promising future.