Students from schools around the Tucson community were given a tour of Davis-Monthan Air Force Base Nov. 14, 2013.
The visit was sponsored by the Southeast Regional Cooperative of the Arizona School for the Deaf and Blind. Ten students with hearing impairments, accompanied by teachers and parents, were treated to an A-10 display and guided on a tour of the air traffic control tower to include the simulator.
The trip was set up by 1st Lt. Rolland Holland, 355th Operations Support Squadron Airfield Operations manager.
"My daughter, McKenzie, actually attends the ASDB and I worked with her teacher to get this set up," Holland said. "When McKenzie first enrolled, I told the school that I worked with the tower on base and if they ever wanted to come over I'd try and set it up. This was the year they decided to take me up on the offer."
Holland began coordinating with D-M agencies during a deployment.
"I was talking to my daughter while downrange and she said 'daddy we're coming to your work!'" he said. "Then I got an e-mail from her teacher and I immediately got the ball rolling on setting up this tour."
Maintenance Airmen assisted with the tour by setting up an A-10 static display in a hangar and air traffic control Airmen acted as the tower tour guides.
"Children with hearing impairments don't hear incidentally like we do, so they don't have the chance to develop that vocabulary like their hearing peers do," said Karen Feldman, ASDB supervising teacher for the Tucson campus. "They don't overhear adults talking about D-M or A-10s, so this is a good way to show them what's going on in their community."
Most of the students and chaperones had never been on the base.
"We don't have any students, aside from McKenzie, that have any connection to the base," said Kristina Manning, ASDB teacher at the Tucson campus. "We thought it would be a great experience for the kids. How many people get to go up in an Air Traffic Control Tower? I was an Air Force officer, and this was my first time ever being in one."
The children who attended the tour are non-traditional ASDB students.
"None of these kids go to school on the main [ASDB] campus," Feldman said. "The Southeast Regional Cooperative provides support for hearing and visually impaired kids that attend classes in their own public school district. We go to their schools and provide direct instruction there."
Due to these students not actually attending the ASDB, the school organizes an annual field trip to encourage camaraderie and to let them know they are a part of ASDB even if they don't sit in a seat on campus.
"Each one of these kids goes to a different school, and usually they're the only kid they know with a hearing aid," Manning said. "It's hard to feel different all the time. This is an environment where they don't have to feel different; it's a chance to make friends and share experiences."