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STARBASE Swamp Fox still going strong

Senior Airman Manley McKinley (uniform, center), from the 169th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, lends a hand during the model rocket launch phase of STARBASE’s summer camp help at McEntire JNGB in June. (Photo courtesy of Mrs. Beth Barkley, STARBASE Swamp Fox)

Students and parents from C.C. Pinckney Elementary School fire rockets on the last day of their STARBASE class at McEntire JNGB. (Photo courtesy of Mrs. Beth Barkley, STARBASE Swamp Fox)

MCENTIRE JOINT NATIONAL GUARD BASE, S.C. --

STARBASE Swamp Fox, a Department of Defense (DoD) math and science program for 5th graders held at McEntire Joint National Guard Base, is alive and well for now. Its future looked grim last spring with the announcement that funding for fiscal year 2014 would be going away. After much work behind the scenes by a lot of STARBASE supporters across the United States, Congress restored the funding for STARBASE.

 

Unfortunately, STARBASE took a hit as a result of this uncertainty. Many of the program's instructors and employees were compelled to find more stable employment in other areas. All Navy STARBASE sites were eliminated. In all, 76 STARBASE sites in 40 states and territories were reduced to 56 sites in 30 states and territories," said retired U.S. Air Force Brig. Gen. John "Coach" Motley, the program's director.

 

This past academic year, STARBASE Swamp Fox served 951 students from 25 schools, down slightly from last year's record of 1,145 students. The downturn was partly due in part to the congressional mandated sequestration at the beginning of the 2014 fiscal year last October.  

 

"STARBASE Swamp Fox was closed for the month of October and the first week in November and all STARBASE employees went on a leave without pay status during this period. Twelve classes had to be cancelled. And just to add 'insult to injury', we had to cancel two more classes due to the ice storms we had here in February," Motley said.

 

Most of the schools represented this year were repeat customers with the addition of three new schools; Sandy Run Elementary from Calhoun County, Mill Creek Elementary from Columbia and Willow Drive Elementary from Sumter, said Mrs. Beth "Boo" Barkley, the program's office manager.

 

The aim of STARBASE is to raise interest and improve the knowledge and skills of at-risk youth in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics). In turn, this unique educational experience is expected to provide for a highly educated and skilled American workforce who can meet the advanced technological requirements of the DoD.

 

McEntire's STARBASE program offers 25 hours of hands-on learning and experiments that includes a curriculum focusing on such topics as Newton's Laws of Motion, Bernoulli's Principles and Properties of Air. STARBASE instructors, South Carolina Air National Guard pilots and support personnel from McEntire, participate in the program by serving as teachers, role models and mentors.

 

Secondary goals of the program include the promotion of healthy lifestyles and drug avoidance. All this ties into the program's motto "Dreams + Action = Reality." Students and STARBASE staff come up with their own call-signs during the program and the week of instruction culminates with the students building and launching their own model rockets.

 

Last month, STARBASE hosted its annual summer camp at McEntire for the dependents of Air and Army Guard personnel. Twenty three campers spent a week learning the traditional STARBASE curriculum, and the always popular model rocket launches. Additional off-base activities such as visits to the University of South Carolina's School of Engineering, the South Carolina Military Museum and Ft. Jackson's Water Park, rounded out the learning experience.

 

As for next year, 100 percent of the schools from this year have already committed to return, provided there is funding for the program.

 

"It's at this point we would hope we could say that all is well, but it looks like we are in for a repeat performance having once again been left out of the President's FY15 budget," said Motley. "We hope to once again overcome this funding issue and continue this great program at McEntire Joint National Guard Base."