Pre-schoolers imagine themselves as RAAF aircrew

Hearing the familiar rumble of an aircraft flying low overhead, preschoolers from McGraths Hill Learning Centre turned their gazes upwards and waved.

CAPTIONA McGraths Hill Learning Centre student raises his hand to ask a question during a visit from No 37 Squadron members, Flight Lieutenant Brendan Smith and Corporal Natashia Jorgensen. Story by Tastri Murdoch. Photos by Leading Aircraftwoman Maddison Scott.

Sitting under the flightpath of the C-130J Hercules, staff and students welcome the ‘big grey planes’ as they fly by, conducting training, exercises and operations.

The learning centre is a family business and Chelsea Nehme is the preschool teacher of the ‘Rainbow Room’.

“We often hear the planes as they are approaching and there is so much excitement,” Ms Nehme said.

“We keep some binoculars handy in the play area for the kids to grab and look up.”

In recognition of C-130J Hercules’ 65th anniversary of operations in Australia, the preschoolers wrote some special ‘birthday letters’ that made their way to nearby RAAF Base Richmond’s 37 Squadron.

“We were sitting outside eating lasagne one lunchtime and we started talking about how it was the Hercules’ ‘birthday’,” Ms Nehme said.

“The students had a lot of questions, so we decided to make some birthday cards and a letter to send to RAAF Base Richmond.”

CAPTIONFlight Lieutenant Brendan Smith, from 37 Squadron, helps a student try on a helmet during a visit to the McGraths Hill Learning Centre, New South Wales.

Pilot Flight Lieutenant Brendan Smith and loadmaster Corporal Natashia Jorgensen, from 37 Squadron, welcomed the community engagement opportunity and recently visited the learning centre to answer their questions.

“We want to have a plane – can we have parachutes in our plane?” Kyzell asked.

“Lots of Air Force paratroopers jump out of the Hercules conducting parachute training,” Corporal Jorgensen answered.

“We want to know if we can get jet packs?” Luke and Owen queried.

“We don’t have jet packs on the Hercules, but they would be handy,” Flight Lieutenant Smith replied.

“Can you please give us dragons to fly?” Max asked.

“I would love to fly on a dragon, so please let me know if you find one,” Flight Lieutenant Smith answered.

“What can you carry in your plane?” Willow asked.

“We have enough room to carry a helicopter or a small truck in a C-130J, so we can take them to places here in Australia or overseas that need our help,” Corporal Jorgensen replied.

CAPTIONCorporal Natashia Jorgensen, a 37 Squadron loadmaster, speaks with a student while trying on a helmet during a visit to the McGraths Hill Learning Centre, New South Wales.

The interactive presentation enabled the students to try on a helmet and observe a safety gear demonstration, allowing them to imagine themselves as RAAF crew members.

“I first wanted to be a pilot when I was five years old,” Flight Lieutenant Smith admitted.

“Growing up, my room was filled with posters of aircraft, but mostly Hercules.”

The visit was an opportunity to say thank you to members of the Hawkesbury region surrounding RAAF Base Richmond for their ongoing support of C-130J training missions.


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