Little Wingman Soars High for 119th Wing
By Senior Airman Desiree Moye, 119th Wing Public Affairs
/ Published May 03, 2015
May 2015 -- Airmen who are proficient at their assigned job, continually pursue education and are active members within the community represent a well-rounded North Dakota Air Guard member. Community involvement is the focus of National Volunteer Month in April.
U.S. Airmen's heritage encompass' an exclusive set of standards and values that can inspire young children to solidify a confident character, along with encouraging a perseverance approach to life. While volunteering is an individual preference, it's an intrinsic part of being a true Airman and wingman.
Throughout the month of April, Airman 1st Class Sean Hummel, new to the 119th Wing, developed a base-wide initiative for mentoring local community children.
"I wanted to generate a positive community impact through my military association. The (119th) Wing is a great catalyst for building that local connection with this new project," said Hummel.
The project -- called Little Wingman -- will provide adult mentors for children, ages 6 - 16, who are under pressure at school or home and may need further one-on-one consideration to work through youth obstacles. The mentoring program welcomes every child; no one will be turned away.
Hummel coordinated the mentoring venture after noticing a child being abused during a community outreach event while off duty.
"I was serving food to the less fortunate one day in the local community, when I witnessed a little boy being abused," Hummel said. "I spoke to the little boy who was hesitant to respond initially, but after sharing that I was in the military, he relaxed and opened up to me."
Hummel said simply understanding a child's interest as they are going through a rough patch in life may be the deciding factor for their positive reform. Spending an hour or so with that child could perhaps improve their overall performance at school and home.
Local community non-profits have volunteered to help the Little Wingman program link more children in need of a mentor.
"We are looking for adult volunteers ages 18 and older, especially male volunteers, who are able to spend consistent time with a child," said Susan Smith, director of the Fargo-based Big Brothers Big Sisters program, which has helped facilitate the pairing of mentors and children for the Little Wingman program.
"Volunteers must reside in the Fargo- Moorhead community and be able to make a year commitment to the program," Smith said.
Hummel shared his idea with base leadership at the most desirable time, since there is an 8-month waiting list of children in need of mentors in the Fargo area, Hummel said.
"Airman Hummel displayed great initiative by starting a mentoring program for the Wing. It is precisely the kind of forward thinking that Chief Master Sgt. James W. Hotaling, the command chief master sergeant of the Air National Guard, has encouraged all senior leaders to support," said Chief Master Sgt. Kevin Muehler, 119th Wing command chief.
After an initial 3-week enrollment and matching process, a North Dakota Air National Guard member can be paired with their little wingman.
"The best thing about this new base program is there is no deadline to participate," Hummel said. "We will start having monthly volunteer orientation in the Aerospace Dining Facility for all to enroll."
Anyone in the 119th Wing can participate at any time. Hummel asks that future applicants be dependable, compassionate and ready to have an amazing experience with your little wingman.
"I am so impressed with the (119th Wing) taking the interest and initiative to be involved in the community. Youth we have had matched with Guard members in the past have been enthralled with their role and character," Smith said.
Smith expressed why the local youth would benefit from the principles recognized in the Airmen here in Fargo.
"The dedication Guard members bring to these youth is critical to the consistency, and therefore the outcomes, of these match relationships," Smith said.