An avionics technician recently returned to her place of inspiration, an event that helped her further set her sights on the skies right after she graduated high school in 2015.
Senior Airman Lydia Kamps, of the 756th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, Luke Air Force Base, Ariz., had the opportunity to return to the Experimental Aircraft Association’s GirlVenture Camp during the Oshkosh Air Show in Wisconsin as a mentor, not just a participant. She was able to share how her path of becoming an Airman is taking her toward the goals she set for herself in aviation, a path most young women in the audience haven’t considered.
“Not only do I get to share my experiences from flying general aviation and my time in the Air Force, I get to inspire others and give them direction for their aviation dreams,” said Kamps, an F-16 Viper avionics technician at the 309th Aircraft Maintenance Unit. “It is even cooler that I am so close in age to the girls I mentored because I can really connect to them and help them realize their career goals are entirely possible even at a young age.”
It was the second year in a row Kamps used the Air Force Recruiting Service’s We Are All Recruiters program, or WEAR, to get approval for a permissive temporary duty to the summer event.
“The airshow and GirlVenture Camp is always one of the best parts of the year,” said Kamps. “It is an awesome opportunity to connect with so many different people, the aviation professionals I mentor with, and the girls that attend the camp. I was also able to meet up with old friends and aviation enthusiasts from all around the world and nerd out over hundreds of airplanes!”
A WEAR event is an event where the interaction of Air Force personnel educates and increases public awareness of the Air Force and could potentially provide numerous leads for recruiters. These events enhance the AFRS mission to inspire, engage and recruit future Airmen to deliver airpower for America.
“GirlVenture is one of the many outreach engagements we participate in to achieve the Air Force’s rated diversity improvement objectives,” said Maj. Lindsay Andrew, AFRS Detachment 1 Director of Operations, Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph, Texas. “This year, AFRS Detachment 1 manned a booth at Kidventure to inform, influence and inspire young aviation enthusiasts at OshKosh. Senior Airman Kamps’ enthusiasm and expertise made her a perfect match for the type of spokespersons AFRS needed at GirlVenture.”
Approval for WEAR is limited to those events where Airmen are directly speaking to potential applicants or influencers about Air Force opportunities. Applicants are defined as individuals within the 17- to 39-year-old range; and influencers can be defined as parents, community leaders, teachers, counselors, coaches and more.
“It can be challenging to share Air Force experience with the high school ladies as many of them have not ever considered the military and have misconceptions,” said Kamps. “However, when I describe the technical skills I have gained from working on jets and mention the benefits of education, travel, and camaraderie, they are intrigued and anxious to find out more. Additionally, when we are walking around the grounds looking at the aircraft and watching the jets fly in the shows they are amazed and encouraged to learn more.”
WEAR events are approved on an individual basis and must be first approved by the individual’s commander in accordance with AFI 36-3003 Military Leave Program. Air Force members may receive up to 14 days permissive TDY per year to attend WEAR events.
“My flight chief introduced me to the WEAR program last year when I was submitting leave to volunteer,” said Kamps. “The program makes it a lot easier to take time from work and fully focus on mentoring and getting the most out of one week packed with people and airplanes.”
While inspiring others, the avionics technician said she was also mentored by other Airmen sharing their story.
“This year we had the privilege of hearing from Col. Kim Campbell about flying in Operation Iraqi Freedom and other accomplished aviators like the Chief Systems Pilot Bebe O’Neil who is prior Air Force,” said Kamps. “The speakers were definitely a highlight for me and the girls.”
A bond was created between the mentor Airman and participants through shared activities and experiences on the air show grounds.
“Many of them are intimidated by the military, especially since the majority that serve are gentleman, but when they see me and find out about my success even as a women they are encouraged to not let that hold them back from their career goals,” said Kamps. “Several girls are already looking at working toward being fighter pilots and appreciate how I started out flying general aviation and later enlisted with the same goal of commissioning that I am currently pursing.
“For others, hearing from my experience might just have been the first spark to their wanting to join the Air Force. It was an honor to share my experiences as an avionics technician and tell them about all the opportunities the Air Force offers.”