Tour Ambassadors welcome visitors to Andrews, share Air Force, Team Andrews story
By Staff Sgt. April Lapetoda, 316th Wing Public Affairs
/ Published February 05, 2007
ANDREWS AFB, Md. --
A slowly diminishing staff and the threat of a very popular program fading into a shadow of itself was the dire situation for the Team Andrews Tour Program.
"The 316th Wing Public Affairs office is charged with managing the popular program," said Ron Bickerstaff, 316th Wing Public Affairs Community Relations chief. "However, with a cut in staff, addressing all the tour requests required some real thought. After some brainstorming, the Tour Ambassadors Program was born in October 2006."
"With the help of the Building Airmen Shaping Excellence 5/6, NCOs were asked to volunteer to become tour leaders," he said. "The response was overwhelming!"
Word quickly spread, and several company grade officers also asked to be a part of the Tour Ambassador Program. Because of their knowledge and familiarity with Reserve Officer Training Corps detachments, the CGOs were gladly welcomed into the program.
Tour Ambassadors were recruited, trained and assigned to host tour groups.
"As a result, tour ambassadors gained opportunities to improve their public speaking skills, and the tour program wasn't forced to cut back on tours: doing more with less," said Mr. Bickerstaff.
Under the Community Relations section of Public Affairs, the objectives of the base tour program are to increase public awareness and understanding of the Air Force, and support Air Force recruiting by inspiring patriotism and encouraging young men and women to serve.
"(The tour program) is a very informative tool for the public," said Staff Sgt. Kinte D. Jamison, Presidential Logistics Squadron Air Force One avionics technician, who has hosted five tours. "It allows people to see how we, the Air Force, work and live up-close and personal. There are so many stereotypes many people gather from movies and TV that this program puts to rest."
To date, tour ambassadors have escorted 11 tours of more than 500 visitors.
Because of the vast amount of tour requests, tours are only given to groups of 10 to 50 people. The majority of tour groups include Girl and Boy Scout Troops, Junior ROTC and Air Force ROTC groups.
During their visits to Andrews, groups are able to select up to three locations to visit. Choices include the 316th Civil Engineer Squadron flight line fire station, 316th Security Forces Squadron Military Working Dog kennels and demonstration, 89th Airlift Wing Special Air Mission aircraft, 1st Helicopter Squadron static display, the 113th Wing's F-16s, a mission brief, windshield tour of Andrews and the 79th Medical Wing Aeromedical Staging Facility. All locations are subject to change due to mission requirements and some areas require additional coordination to meet security criteria.
While the Public Affairs office coordinates the logistics for tours, the tour ambassadors meet the group's bus at the gate. Once they have been cleared by security forces, the tour ambassadors welcome the visitors to the base and give them some history and facts about Andrews as they escort the visitors to their tour stops.
Public Affairs personnel are available to the tour ambassadors should they run into any problems or need any assistance.
"I volunteered to be a tour ambassador because I am new to the base," said Tech. Sgt. Anitra W. Mostacero, 79th Medical Wing executive staff assistant. "It's a great way to become familiar with the base and improve my public speaking skills."
"I knew the program would give me the opportunity as a new member of Team Andrews to meet people as well as showcase the base and all the great things we do here to those who visit," said 1st Lt. Eric M. DeTurk, 316th Security Forces Squadron flight commander, who has hosted five tours.
More than 30 NCOs and CGOs representing three wings from Team Andrews have volunteered to be tour ambassadors.
Each tour group is hosted by two tour ambassadors from different career fields and wings. Two hosts allow the ambassadors to take turns talking and calling ahead to the next tour stop, while giving the bus driver directions. Pairing the tour ambassadors up with different career backgrounds brings diverse Air Force specialties together for the tour and also tells a different side of the Air Force story.
"I help others by sharing my personal experiences in the Air Force while answering questions nonstop," said Sergeant Jamison. "Questions to me are signs of interest. Going by the massive amount of questions I get, I can tell there is a lot of interest."
"I have learned that every experience is a new experience to someone else," said Sergeant Mostacero, who has served in the Air Force for 12 years. "People receiving tours are fascinated by the things and sights (servicemembers) take for granted every day."
Lieutenant DeTurk said serving as a tour ambassador has enabled him to get a better understanding of other functional areas at Andrews, which he wouldn't normally interact with as a security forces officer.
"On my first tour, I was so nervous I told the passengers I would have ice cream for dinner if I made it through and remembered everything," said Sergeant Mostacero. "They were so happy with me; they all yelled 'don't forget your ice cream! You get two scoops!'"
Sergeant Jamison's biggest surprise came in the form of flattery.
"I found it surprising that so many people wanted to take pictures of or with me during the tours," said Sergeant Jamison, an Air Force veteran of 11 years.
"I have learned that there's an immense amount of interest within the civilian world about what goes on within the gates of an Air Force base," said Sergeant Jamison.
"My goal is to share all that I know about Air Force life with those who are interested enough to make the trip," he said.
"My goal as a tour ambassador is to take a step outside the security forces area for a moment and assist the Public Affairs office in allowing visitors to gain a better understanding of the Air Force and the military through Andrews," said Lieutenant DeTurk.