29th ATKS Airmen officiate Mescalero Apache Schools drone competition

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Antonio Salfran
  • 49th Wing Public Affairs

Airmen from the 29th Attack Squadron volunteered to participate as judges and referees in the first Aerial Drone Competition at Mescalero Apache High School, Jan. 21, 2023.

The event was sanctioned by the Robotics Education and Competition Foundation out of Greenville, Texas, and locally organized by Mescalero Apache School teacher, mentor, and coach, Nate Raynor.

“This competition was an exciting opportunity for our students to hone their piloting and engineering skills,” said Raynor. “Being able to put this together has shown me that these events are a true learning experience where teamwork, progressive iteration and precision are paramount to success.”

Raynor collaborated with Mr. Tarek Shrabaitai, the vice president of international programs and developments at the REC Foundation, who was in attendance at the competition.

Shrabaitai expressed that the significance of this event is not to be understated, noting that it will serve as a starting point for expansion of the program worldwide, connecting a wide variety of communities.

“Starting this trend on the Mescalero Apache Reservation is incredibly important,” said Shrabaiti. “Native Americans are seriously underrepresented in STEM fields, and partnering with the Air Force will help us jumpstart state-wide expansion, providing so many students with opportunities they may have thought they didn’t have.”

Cultivating a connected community is a priority among the entire Air Force, and remains to be an integral part of the mission here at Holloman.

“The goal was to bolster ties with the local community, especially since our squadron mascot is the Ghost Warrior,” said U.S. Air Force Capt. Alexander Rockwell, 29th Attack Squadron instructor pilot and event coordinator. “The Mescalero Apache tribe has been our local community partner for years now, so any chance we can get to meet members of their tribe is a great opportunity.”

One of the many ways the 29th ATKS leads and develops multi-capable Airmen is through volunteer efforts. These efforts foster leadership qualities throughout the squadron such as relationship-building, garnering credibility, empowering others and becoming role models for others.

“It was awesome getting to see my co-workers and fellow squadron members mentor the younger generation,” said Rockwell. “Their participation and passion make me immensely proud to be a part of the 29th Attack Squadron.”

With the success of the first drone competition in the state, the future looks bright for the students and mentors who are looking to get into science, technology, engineering and mathematics-related activities.

For more information regarding STEM-related activities and future aerial drone competitions, you can contact Tarek Shraibati at tarek@roboticseducation.org.