NAVAL AIR STATION PATUXENT RIVER, Md. (NNS) -- Sailors from Air Test and Evaluation Squadron (VX) 1 exhibited an MH-60S Sea Hawk helicopter at Ron Burton Training Village (RBTV) in Hubbardston, Massachusetts, July 12.
The village, established 35 years ago, works to mentor at-risk and impoverished youth from diverse backgrounds 12 months a year, over a seven-year period. Part of the program is a five-week summer camp.
“Our mission is to develop them spiritually, educationally, physically and academically so that we raise the whole kid and develop the whole person,” said Ron Burton Jr.
Ron Burton Sr. established the training village to empower young men in similar he faced as a youth.
Burton Sr. grew up poor in Ohio and was teased for his lack of athletic skills. In high school, he was pulled aside and mentored to train harder and more consistently. Burton Sr. went on to be the first round draft choice in the NFL and played six years for the New England Patriots. He is now in the National Football Foundation's College Football Hall of Fame.
In 1998, the camp reached out to U.S. Naval Academy and began working with Marines, Sailors and Midshipmen within the admissions department to help with the village.
“Having the Navy here is such an inspiration,” said Burton Jr. “We have the Naval Academy Sailors that run seven miles with the kids in the morning and are an important part of our leadership team, which in turn teaches the kids leadership.”
More recently in 2015, Arthur Johnson, a retired rear admiral, worked with the Naval Academy’s leadership in Annapolis, Maryland, and created an aviation piece for the camp to increase the camp’s science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) presence.
“We have a flight simulator that gives kids some hands-on flight experiences,” said Johnson. “We want to bring a broader STEM program to the campers and give them more opportunities to learn and improve.”
In order to expand the aviation program and to spark more campers’ interests, Johnson reached out to VX-1 to have a team bring a helicopter to the camp. The squadron obliged, and landed an MH-60S on the village’s football field.
After a brief introduction, campers were able to get in the pilots’ seats and ask the crew questions. Naval aircrewmen helped campers into air crew gear, and conducted physical challenges with the gear. Campers also asked Sailors what life in the Navy is like.
“Being able to give the campers a glimpse into helicopter Naval aviation was a profoundly rewarding experience,” said Lt. Natalie Siedschlag, one of the pilots. “I could see us ignite inspiration within these young men. All of the campers were extremely respectful and asked engaging questions.”
RBTV hopes to offer private pilot licensing opportunities for the campers in future years, and more visits from Sailors.
“What keeps us motivated and keeps us coming back are the success stories,” said Johnson. “We’ve had numerous program-graduates join the Air Force, Military, Naval and U.S. Coast Guard Academies.”
The training village has served more than 9,000 kids, and accepts most campers on scholarships. The program’s philosophy is to inspire the consideration of others before one’s self and motivate an understanding that faith and morals need to be the foundation of the mentality through which they approach life.
The principal mission of VX-1 is to test and evaluate airborne anti-submarine warfare, maritime anti-surface weapon systems and airborne strategic weapon systems, as well as support systems, equipment and materials in an operational environment. The squadron also develops, reviews and disseminates new Operational Tactics Guides to provide guidance to fleet units on initial operating capabilities before fleet tactical publications are ready.
For more news from Air Test and Evaluation Squadron (VX) 1, visit www.navy.mil/local/VX1/.