By Joy Shrum, Communication Specialist, AVIAN Information & Multimedia Services (AIMS)

Image courtesy of Joy Shrum @ Avian

NAVAL AIR SYSTEMS COMMAND, PATUXENT RIVER, Md. – School is out for summer, but dozens of children received a lesson they won’t soon forget. H-1 Marine Light Attack Helicopter Programs (PMA-276) welcomed more than 70 children to the program office for its inaugural “Future Skid Kids Day” June 20.

The idea was conceived by Acquisition and Operations Lead, Sharon “Mee Mee” Shaw, who shared she had recently realized her eight-year-old daughter, Abby, didn’t have a full grasp on the importance of her job.

“One day my daughter asked me why do I have to work here and why do I have to work every day? Without hesitation, I told her that mommy works every day to support the warfighter!” said Shaw.

The program office invited all the PMA-276 employees’ children to spend a day with them to learn more about what their parents do every day. The name “Skid Kids” was derived from a Marines’ nickname, which is common in the H-1 community because the helicopters utilize skids instead of wheels.

PMA-276 Program Manager, Col. David Walsh, briefed the group, which ranged from toddler to teenager, on the UH-1Y Venom and AH-1Z Viper aircraft and offered an inside peek at the work being done to support the Marines. Afterwards, the children had a chance to visit both aircraft and learn, first-hand, from Marine pilots.

Image courtesy of Joy Shrum @ Avian

During a NAVAIR career brief, the older kids heard from a Marine pilot, engineer, logistician, and a business finance manager to learn how all the moving parts work together for the common goal of supporting the warfighter.

“I have a better understanding of how intricate the aircraft is,” said Abigail Solomon, a fourth-year Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) student at Great Mills High School (GMHS).

Her brother, Drake, 8, was more impressed with seeing the aircraft up close and personal and is considering joining the military, exclaiming, “I want my own call sign!”

Image courtesy of Joy Shrum @ Avian

Both Abigail and Drake said the best part of the day was spending time with their parents.

Myles Garner, 16, said he was surprised to learn during the career brief that becoming a pilot only required a four-year degree. His mother, Rose Marie Garner, said she believes her son now has more respect for her job.

“My son is seriously thinking about a military career now more than ever,” Garner said.

Twins Carol and Shannon Moriarty, 12, are also enrolled in the STEM program at GMHS. Both agreed that Future Skid Kids Day exceeded their expectations. “This is not what we thought it would be. It was much more fun than previous base field days from school,” the sisters stated.

Image courtesy of Joy Shrum @ Avian

Angel-Leigh Washington, currently enrolled at the College of Southern Maryland, said the highlight of the day for her was viewing the helicopters, adding she was impressed to learn how much goes into the process to support the warfighters.

“The event was amazing and very educational and inspiring!” she said. “I learned the importance of the roles within PMA-276 and NAVAIR that support the military.”

While the younger kids weren’t quite ready to think about a career, they enjoyed seeing pictures of the various H-1 missions and videos of the aircraft in action. They also had a chance to get into some flight gear and envision life as a Marine helicopter pilot. Gabriel Shrum, a rising kindergartner at Evergreen Elementary School, was thrilled with the capabilities of the aircraft, “I want to be a rescue helicopter pilot and fly on the Venom!”

Image courtesy of Joy Shrum @ Avian

Walsh believes the Future Skid Kids Day event will have a lasting effect on the kids.

“I hope the children walk away and consider a career in the military or a STEM career to support the military,” he said. “They should all be very proud of the work their parents do every day.”

David M. Higgins II is an award-winning journalist passionate about uncovering the truth and telling compelling stories. Born in Baltimore and raised in Southern Maryland, he has lived in several East...