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Face of Defense: Captain Mentors Teens in Senate Youth Program

By Army Staff Sgt. S. Patrick McCollum
Special to American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, March 30, 2009 – Students participating in the U.S. Senate Youth Program recently toured government buildings including the Pentagon, met their elected representatives and learned about the foundations of democracy.

Click photo for screen-resolution image
Air Force Capt. Ladonna Singleton, a communications officer with the 254th Combat Communications Group in Garland, Texas, was the only Air National Guard member who participated as a mentor in the 2009 U.S. Senate Youth Program. The week-long program brought young people together from across the country to learn about the political process. Photo courtesy of Erin Lubin
  

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.

They also became personally acquainted with a citizen-airman who defends this democratic process.

Air Force Capt. Ladonna Singleton, a communications officer with the 254th Combat Communications Group in Garland, Texas, was the only Air National Guard member to mentor students in the weeklong program that brings young people to the nation’s capital from across the country to learn more about the political process.

“We have to make sure we have them all 100 percent accounted for from the time we get up for breakfast at 7:30 to the time we go to bed,” Singleton said during the event. “We have to stay in service-dress uniform until 11 at night.”

Singleton escorted the students as they talked with high-level officials, including senators, Supreme Court justices, and even President Barack Obama. Though the students already knew a lot about the political process, Singleton said, many were unfamiliar with the military.

“Some of the students had no idea what the Air Force did or the Army or the Marines or the Coast Guard or any of the other services until they met up with us,” she said. “They now have a face, and now they’re like, ‘Maybe I can consider this.’”

Singleton said the students were very curious about her job in the military. Among other things, she took these opportunities to talk to them about the Guard and its role in hurricane relief, she said.

Singleton took a little more time with Evan McCartney, a student from Missouri, who expects to go to the Air Force Academy.

“I want to be a pilot,” McCartney said, expressing a particular interest in jets. Although that is still his plan, McCartney said, Singleton introduced him more to the day-to-day workings of the Air Force, and the growth fields of unmanned aerial vehicles, intelligence, and Singleton’s favorite: communications.

“She’s just brought an awareness of the internal side of the Air Force,” McCartney said. “I’ve always kind of known about the UAVs, but she’s shown me how it is growing.”

For her part, Singleton admitted that even as a mentor, participating in the Youth Program taught her something as well.

“I got a chance to get some deeper insight,” Singleton said. “Definitely more detail about the Senate than I ever knew.”

(Army Staff Sgt. S. Patrick McCollum serves with the National Guard Bureau.)

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