3rd AS gives community teen Royal treatment as Pilot for a Day
By Staff Sgt. Aaron J. Jenne, 436th Airlift Wing Public Affairs
/ Published March 20, 2018
DOVER AIR FORCE BASE, Del. -- Members of the 3rd Airlift Squadron, the Royals, welcomed Kareem Bennett and his family to participate in their Pilot for a Day Program March 16, 2018, here.
The program, which is common to flying squadrons throughout the Air Force, aims to support community children who receive long-term medical care by fostering a professional relationship and welcoming them into their military family.
“It’s a unique program,” said Capt. Blake Jones, 3rd AS pilot and one of the squadron’s Pilot for a Day program coordinators. “It gives participants the opportunity to visit an Air Force Base and witness the unique missions that each base is responsible for. It’s the most fun and rewarding volunteering event that I’ve done since I’ve been in the Air Force. The smiles on the families’ faces is fulfilling in itself.”
The squadron has a standing partnership with both the Alfred I. duPont Hospital for Children in Wilmington, Delaware, and the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, to find children who could benefit from programs like Pilot for a Day.
Bennett, who receives routine medical treatments at Alfred I. duPont for a blood disorder, was identified as an excellent candidate for the program, and after a few hours with members of the 3rd AS, his mother, Aniszia Liverpool, agreed.
“He has a chronic disease that is inherited from both parents, and from time to time he has to be admitted, especially in the winter months,” Liverpool said. “He’s been through a lot. It’s really hard on his body. It affects his limbs, causing him a lot of pain and making it hard for him to concentrate. It’s nice to have someone else who can relieve some of that stress from him.
“It’s over the top,” Liverpool said of the day’s events. “We didn’t expect this at all. We were thinking we’d come for a visit, just like a normal field trip. This is not a normal field trip. It’s like you’re a dignitary for a day. I just want to thank them from the bottom of my heart for them to take time out of their busy schedules and making a child’s day. It literally brought me to tears seeing him smile and laugh.”
When he was invited to participate in the program, Bennett thought he would be joining a group of a dozen or more children, but was shocked to find out the entire day was designed for him.
“I would think that there were other kids that were coming, but I showed up and I was the only one,” Bennett said. “That’s how I knew this is actually a day for me. I was like, wow!”
During his tour, Bennett visited the air traffic control tower, radar approach control, aircrew flight equipment, the combat arms training facility and the fire department. He also watched a military working dog demonstration and toured a C-17 Globemaster III parked on the installation’s flightline.
Members from each shop Bennett visited told him about their job and how they contributed to the overall mobility mission at Dover AFB.
“All of it was awesome, but I liked to see how the dogs worked out, what they do and how they do it,” Bennett said. “I’d say the gun part was cool too, because I’ve never actually held a gun like that. It was pretty awesome.”
At the end of their tour, Bennett and his family participated in a 3rd AS roll call where he was recognized as a member of the 3rd AS family.
“We are excited to host you and your family today,” said Lt. Col. Mark Radio, 3rd AS commander, to Bennett during the roll call. “You are a Royal family member for life by participating in this program. We will stay in touch with you for future events. If you’re in town and we are around, please stay in touch with us and you are welcome to come back and hang out in the squadron.”
Bennett was the second community member who participated in the program, and at the end of the roll call, he placed his nametape on a plaque next to Dalton Padgett, the squadron’s first Pilot for a Day.
“You are our second pilot for a day who has been able to come through here,” Radio said. “Dalton was our first pilot for a day when we brought the program back, but you’ll see that we have the patches of our former members. Anyone who retires or moves on to other things leaves a patch behind so we can always look up at the walls and see who came before us, who instilled the excellence that we try to carry out today. Now you have the opportunity to place your nametag on the wall, so we’ll always remember Kareem Bennett.”