Wrestlers from across the country visit McConnell Air Force Base, Kansas Air National Guard

The 184th Wing hosts more than 150 wrestlers from colleges all over the United States at McConnell Air Force Base, Kansas, to showcase capabilities and opportunities within the Air Force and Air National Guard, March 5.

By Master Sgt. Matt McCoy, 184th Public Affairs

Young athletes from a number of U.S. colleges poured out of buses and into an airplane hangar to catch a glimpse of what it’s like to be an Airman.

TACP Airmen talks with student college wrestler.
284th ASOS Airman talks with collegiate wrestler. U.S. Air Force photo by Capt. Matthew Lucht.

The visit was part of ongoing community outreach efforts made by the 22nd Air Refueling Wing, active duty Air Force and the 184th Wing, Kansas Air National Guard, at McConnell Air Force Base in Wichita, Kansas.

These college wrestlers were in Wichita for a championship tournament hosted by the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics.

According to naia.org, “The National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA), headquartered in Kansas City, Missouri, is a governing body of small athletics programs that are dedicated to character-driven intercollegiate athletics.”

“The major focus of the NAIA is our Champions of Character program,” said Marc Burchard, senior manager of championship events, NAIA. “We have five core values: integrity, respect, responsibility, sportsmanship and servant leadership. That’s really what we’re all about.”

They offer more than 77,000 student-athletes opportunities to play a variety of college sports, earn scholarships and participate in national tournaments.

This year’s wrestling tournament took place at Hartman Arena, north of Wichita, March 7-8.

Overview of displays with a large group of college wrestlers.
Over 150 college wrestlers gather around military displays. U.S. Air Force photo by Capt. Matthew Lucht.

The visit was initiated between NAIA representatives, travel and tourism organization Visit Wichita, and Tim Daniel, honorary commander for the 184th WG.

Maj. Jammie Frakes, executive officer, 184th WG, was the project coordinator for the event.

“They needed a venue to visit during the national wrestling tournament and they felt there was no better place in town than McConnell Air Force Base,” said Frakes. “It’s a pretty large event, especially for the city of Wichita, and definitely for the Kansas Air National Guard.”

Displays were set up inside the hangar that gave the wrestlers opportunities to talk with Airmen and learn what they do. This included Security Forces personnel, emergency management, intelligence analysts, and tactical air control party specialists from the Kansas Air National Guard.

College student wrestler looks through scope of automatic weapon.
College wrestler looks through weapons scope. U.S. Air Force photo by Capt. Matthew Lucht.

Active-duty Airmen from the 22nd ARW’s Explosive Ordinance Disposal team were also on site.

“They have some really cool equipment and vehicles that they deploy in the event of any kind of explosive ordinance that needs to be investigated,” said Frakes.

Each display had vehicles and equipment that Airmen use in their primary duties. This gave the visitors an up-close-and-personal experience.

“It’s kind of nice to get out and see these different things and the opportunity to come here is pretty awesome,” said Carter Max, freshmen, Dakota Wesleyan University. “My twin brother’s actually in the Air Force ROTC, so I have a background with that.”

Master Sgt. talks with three college student wrestlers.
Master Sgt. Dale Brooks talks with three college wrestlers. U.S. Air Force photo by Capt. Matthew Lucht.

The project team highlighted Air Force careers that weren’t solely focused on airplanes.

“People know tankers fly at McConnell. They see that on a daily basis,” said Frakes. “What’s lesser known are the missions that the Air National Guard perform that are just as vital to national security as the tanker mission.”

Mission sets include battlefield intelligence, command and control, close air support, cyber-security and mission support.

“[This event] gives us an opportunity to provide a venue for people to see and to understand what we do,” said Frakes. “It’s also a recruiting opportunity for us. Just like any other organization in the community, we’re actively recruiting to find members to be our team members and to join our family.”