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Starbase aims to create more 'STARS'

Students attending Starbase Swamp Fox, along with volunteers from the 169th Fighter Wing, launch rockets during a field trip to McEntire Joint National Guard Base, S.C., June 25, 2012.
(Courtesy photo by Starbase/Released)

Students attending Starbase Swamp Fox, along with volunteers from the 169th Fighter Wing, launch rockets during a field trip to McEntire Joint National Guard Base, S.C., June 25, 2012. (Courtesy photo by Starbase/Released)

MCENTIRE JOINT NATIONAL GUARD BASE, South Carolina -- After more than six years in existence at the McEntire Joint National Guard Base, STARBASE Swamp Fox is still fulfilling the needs of local fifth graders by providing hands-on activities in the field of STEM - Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math.

The dream of STARBASE is to maintain a program that responds to the needs of today's youth by providing stimulating, "hands-on, mind-on" science, technology, engineering and math, as well as motivational goal setting and self-esteem activities.

Lt. Col. (Ret.) Jim Hiott, Deputy Director of STARBASE Swamp Fox, who has been with the program for six years, said, "We feel very fortunate to have Starbase here at McEntire. Our goal is that this program continues to thrive."

STARBASE teaches the students how to perform on a high level, how to work effectively in teams, and how to avoid common pitfalls which can negatively affect performance.

With STEM, they are provided the opportunity to see how these four academic areas can help them achieve now, as well as in their future careers.

The program hopes to develop this growth by allowing the students to visit sites on base to see how people work together toward a common goal. Some of the sites visited are life support, the tower, radar site, Eagle Vision, and Army Aviation.

"All of the people we visit with the classes on base are very supportive," said Hiott. "However, we are also working on additional external visits to the USC Engineering School for other learning activities."

"STARBASE is a "team" effort and any "coach" can appreciate that," said Brig. Gen. (Ret.) John "Coach" Motley, the program's director. "Our team make-up includes a great staff and tremendously professional and engaged volunteers from the entire McEntire community."

"When the students arrive at STARBASE, it is game time and our team continues to shine when the lights come on!" said Motley.

Staff members pride themselves on making a difference in the lives of their students. They also have an even greater love when they help them to understand something that they didn't at the beginning of the course.

Motley said, "I once had a student write in his course evaluation: "STARBASE has been a wonderful experience for me. I love the fact that they make what seems boring, fun. Since STARBASE, I have a new opinion about learning."

"Comments like this let me know that we are making a difference in children's lives," said Motley.

The current schedule for the upcoming school year appears to bring the lives of more children into contact with the program. It has filled up already, along with a waiting list of more than eight schools who would like to participate."

That waiting list may become even longer when the new middle school mentoring program, Starbase 2.0, begins in 2013.

"Up until now, most of our effort has been concentrated on the 5th Graders," said Hiott. "However with Starbase 2.0, we plan to re-engage the students at Southeast Middle School, located near the base.

"This curriculum will be similar to a club that will take part in STEM activities, which we hope will enhance their choice of STEM careers," he said.

Through this new program, STARBASE Swamp Fox will active seek to recruit military mentors to help the students stay on the right track. However, anyone with the desire and time to work with the students will be greatly appreciated.

Hiott said, "Gen. Motley has done a great job in both recruiting schools and getting additional funds for improvement. He would love to also recruit as many Swamp Foxes as possible to assist with the influx of students."

'Coach' recently obtained enough money for us to add a computer lab where the students can utilize a 3-D AutoCAD drawing program to use imagery as a great learning tool," said Hiott. "Coach is doing a great job!"

Although Coach is looked upon as doing a great job, he doesn't really see it as a job. He feels that he is just giving back.

"Life has come full cycle for me," says Motley. "Upon graduation from college, my first job was teaching 6th and 8th grade science and coaching high school football and basketball.

"After 27 years of full time service in the SCANG, I have been given the opportunity to give back to the community while also having a direct impact on the education of our next generation," he said. "I consider it a real privilege to have this opportunity and when folks ask me why I'm still working I reply, it isn't "work" when you are having this much fun!"

The STARBASE Swamp Fox staff is Gen. (Ret.) John Motley, Director, Lt. Col. (Ret.) Jim Hiott, Deputy Director, SMSgt Lola Banks, Lead Instructor, Beth Brooks, Office Manager, Linda Willing, Part-time instructor, and Perri Peraza, Part-time instructor.

At the beginning of FY2013, there were 76 STARBASE sites are in operation, in 40 States, Puerto Rico, and Washington DC.