MANCHESTER – Maj. Gen. Christopher Bence, Commander of the U.S. Air Force Expeditionary Center at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, visited Manchester Township Elementary School recently, school officials reported.
The school met him at an assembly, flanked by an honor guard and color guard from the high school.
Bence told the students that he is in charge of the large planes at the base that carry all kinds of cargo and he still flies those planes sometimes. He and his team recently helped with hurricane relief efforts, flying into affected areas to bring water, food, electric generators and construction supplies. He said sometimes these planes serve as flying ambulances with all kinds of medical equipment and doctors and nurses on board. One of the more unusual things he transported was live dolphins, which the Navy uses for port surveillance.
The general explained the different types of Air Force uniforms, pointing to his accompanying staff members as examples of dress uniform, patrol battle unit, and aircrew uniform. He said that the jumpsuit he was wearing is the aircrew uniform, and it is fireproof.
He talked about the Air Force motto. “Our motto is close to your school’s (Excellence by Example),” he said. “It is ‘Excel in All We Do’ and it means we always try to do our best.”
Students asked him why he joined the Air Force. “I wanted to be a pilot, I wanted to fly airplanes,” he replied. Another student asked how long he works. He said goes into work around 7:15 a.m. and usually leaves around 6:00 p.m. “My job is fun. I am in charge of an organization with people in 23 countries.”
After the school-wide assembly program, the general spoke separately to fifth graders and then fourth graders in the school media center. He went into more detail explaining his job and his unit’s mission, showing models of the planes he flies, a flak jacket, a flight helmet, headphones, and a signal mirror. Students were able to get a closer look as they passed some of the items around. At the end of the visit, Maj. Gen. Bence joined the fifth graders for a group photo that will go in their yearbook.