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RAF LAKENHEATH — Do troops use solar panels for energy at deployed locations? Is it OK to send a deployed servicemember difficult e-mails detailing their child’s trouble at school? And is it possible to predict when pupils might be absent to spend time with parents returning from deployments?

These questions and a host of others were addressed recently during a briefing given by airmen to educate educators on military life, especially during times of deployment.

Two members of the 100th Air Refueling Wing and a member of the 48th Fighter Wing met with dozens of faculty and staff in the Lakenheath High School library during a recent in-service day to bridge the two worlds that are often further apart than geography would suggest.

“These teachers are right here on base working with our children, but many of them aren’t aware of how the military works, or how we work when we’re deployed downrange,” said Tech. Sgt. William Dominy, 33, of Florida, N.Y. “If we can give them a little better idea of how it all works, then they can work better with our students.”

The briefing began with the three servicemembers speaking over a series of slides that detailed everyday life downrange. The focus was on living conditions, explaining mission basics and showing how the troops relax in their off time.

It’s basically the same information the three have provided to students and faculty at other Department of Defense Dependents Schools institutions in England. A photo of the impromptu, handmade collection point for sewage has proven a fan favorite during the speaking tours, Dominy said.

The group of teachers then lobbed a handful of questions to the troops, including a query on solar energy, which prompted a response from Capt. Aaron Brooks.

“Given the fact that we have to be expedient, we use diesel fuel generators rather than solar power,” the 30-year-old Warsaw, N.Y., native said. “In the Air Force, we are always concerned with cost and speed.”

Teachers concerned about sending a deployed airman bad news about a child’s academic progress or behavior in the classroom were told that even difficult news is welcome downrange.

Dominy said an e-mail about dropping grades should not be avoided.

“Getting info from teachers and other folks back home brought me back to the real world. This is something I can control, something I can focus on outside of work,” he said. “If you don’t keep us informed, we come home to a world of surprises.”

Other teachers wondered if there’s a way to predict when they will experience en masse absences.

Tech. Sgt. Merlin Choice, 39, of Laurens, S.C., said the largely predictable Air Expeditionary Force deployment rotation schedule should help teachers better plan for the inevitable “reuniting family” absences.

For the teachers, the briefing and question-and-answer session served its purpose.

“This gave me some really good information on how to better handle both the students and the parents,” said high school English teacher Dawn Bangs.

Science teacher and wrestling coach Darryl Brock agreed.

“At least this gives us a better idea of when students will be out of class and we can plan our lessons appropriately,” Brock said.


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