Lakenheath airmen reach out to kids at air museum
June 18, 2008
DUXFORD — In an effort to reach out to the local communities around the two largest U.S. air bases in England, airmen from RAF Lakenheath spent Friday afternoon entertaining Suffolk-area youth at the American Air Museum.
Set behind the museum’s massive hangar full of World War II-era planes, the event was a chance for about 300 children to meet the U.S. troops behind the screaming jets that fly over their neighborhoods every day.
Twelve-year-old Sky Redman, of Newmarket, described it in one word: "Wicked!"
Judging from the children’s expressions, the carnival was a success. There was no shortage of fun between the F-15 flyover, police dog and falconry demonstrations, fire truck and ambulance displays, barbecue and games.
"We think it’s a lovely thing to put on for the children," said Red Lodge resident Clare Turnbull, whose 8-year-old son, Rhys, was all smiles as he raced around the grounds with friends. "They’d never get to see all this otherwise because we don’t go to the base."
Typically, the Air Force invites a few dozen children to a base, "but we wanted to give back to the community in a more active way," said Capt. Jonathan Bott of the 492nd Fighter Squadron, who helped coordinate the carnival with staff from the American museum, part of the Imperial War Museum Duxford near Cambridge.
The event is the brainchild of museum director and the honorary commander of the 492nd, Richard Ashton. It was conducted by about 200 volunteers from 11 Lakenheath units, Bott said.
The relationship between the U.S. Air Force and Duxford dates back to World War II when American units were stationed there. Duxford’s American Air Museum is a memorial to the 30,000 U.S. airmen who died flying from U.K. bases during the war.
Christian Pratt, the museum’s marketing director, said Friday’s event was inspired by a Christmas party U.S. troops hosted for British children at Duxford in 1943.
"The Americans really reached out to the community in a time of war … and we really just wanted to keep that link alive," Pratt said. "We wanted people to know that the [U.S. Air Forces in Europe] is not hidden behind the gate but really part of the community."