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USAF Participates in AAD 2010 Youth Program

CAPE TOWN, South Africa -- Some of South Africa's best and brightest high school students engaged Maj. Gen. Margaret Woodward, 17th Air Force Commander, while touring the Africa Aerospace and Defense 2010 expo at Air Force Base Ysterplatt, Cape Town, South Africa, Sept. 23.

Woodward spoke to the students, who are part of a South African Department of Defense youth program, about future career opportunities and the importance of the partnership between the South Africa Air Force and the U.S. Air Force.

Col. Bobby Keller, Chairman of the South African Department of Defense youth program, says the AAD 2010 is an opportunity to expose top academic achievers from Cape Town to partnerships, programs, and careers they can pursue after high school.

The goal of the student youth program, a program that the U.S. was invited to participate in, is to reach out to the students and expose them to the all the career opportunities that are available in the DOD as well as aviation, said Keller.

Woodward agreed and was more than impressed with students she had the chance to speak with.

"Everything we've seen from working with these children, it's obvious that South Africa has an incredible future ahead because the next generation is a brilliant group," said Woodward. "We hope to continue to partner with them for a long time."
Senior Master Sgt. Dean Carter, a loadmaster in the Air Force Reserve who helped forge the partnership between the youth program and the 17th Air Force, hoped the partnership would further inspire young South Africans towards careers in aviation and their nation's military.

"There are plenty of avenues and doors that the youth can take, you just have to show it to them, make sure they stay open and kind of push them a little bit," said Carter. "Mentoring helps and I think that's what we've done."

Even more impressive than speaking with senior military officers, the students were excited about the variety of aircraft and equipment they were able to see up close, with students expressing amazement at the different aircraft here, especially from the United States.

"I've never been in a cockpit--never," said sixteen-year-old Chane Botha, a high school junior from Durban, South Africa. "That was the best part, to see everything actually and meet the pilots also."

Students were provided the opportunity to tour U.S. military aircraft, such as the C-130J Hercules, C-17 Globemaster III and HH-60 Pave Hawk Helicopter.

Besides U.S. equipment, the students were granted the opportunity to view additional aircraft and equipment from over 30 nations while also putting their skills to the test on flight and driving simulators.

Keller credits the partnership with 17th Air Force in helping the youth program succeed and said the children appreciated being at AAD.

"Our association with the 17th Air Force at this stage is tremendous," said Keller. "The kids are really appreciating that as well, that they can really visit the aircraft."