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STARBASE Swamp Fox sets attendance record for third straight year

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. Jim St.Clair
  • JFHQ Public Affairs
STARBASE Swamp Fox, a Department of Defense (DoD) math and science program for 5th graders held at McEntire Joint National Guard Base, has set an attendance record for the third year in a row.

This past academic year, STARBASE Swamp Fox served a record 1,145 students and held 49 classes. Sixty eight percent of the students served at McEntire are classified by DoD as "at-risk." Most of the schools represented in this year's group included returning schools from last year plus one new school: A.G. Corley Elementary School from Irmo, S.C.

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) which in turn will provide for a highly educated and skilled American workforce who can meet the advanced technological requirements of DoD. McEntire's STARBASE program offers 25 hours of hands-on learning and experiments and 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 other personnel from McEntire participate in the program by serving as teachers, role models and mentors. Secondary goals of STARBASE 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.

Retired U.S. Air Force Brig. Gen. John "Coach" Motley, the program's director, said he feared this would be the last year for STARBASE at McEntire when DoD eliminated the funding for all 76 STARBASE programs across the country in May. However, Congress is presently working to restore the $27 million needed for the nationwide program to continue.

"There has been a grassroots effort across the United States to have Congress restore funding for [Fiscal Year] 14. At STARBASE Swamp Fox, we are cautiously optimistic that funding will be restored and we will continue to conduct classes without any interruptions in the 2013-2014 school year," Motley said.

In addition to Motley, Team STARBASE includes deputy director retired U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Jim "Lightning" Hiott, instructors Lola "Sugarr" Banks, Linda "Mad Scientist" Willing, Perri "Sharkbite" Peraza and office manager Beth "Boo" Brooks.

This month, STARBASE hosted its annual summer camp for the dependents of Air and Army Guard personnel. Twenty two campers spent a week at McEntire learning the traditional STARBASE curriculum, and the always popular model rocket launches, with additional off-base activities such as visits to the University of South Carolina's School of Engineering and the South Carolina Military Museum.

If the funding is restored as planned, the new STARBASE school year for 2013-2014 will start on August 26 and there are already nine schools on the waiting list according to Brooks.