St. Marys high school principal takes flight

ST. MARYS — A local principal recently joined a small group of educators to take part in a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity as part of a partnership between school districts and a branch of the military.

St. Marys Memorial High School Principal Dave Lewis was nominated by Army National Guard Sgt. Andrew Sanford to participate in a refueling mission Oct. 13 at Rickenbacker Airport.

“We went in for a briefing, we got there early in the morning — there were about 20 to 25 educators there — teachers, principals, guidance counselors, superintendents,” Lewis said. “Everybody had to be nominated by their local Guard unit.”

Sanford noted Lewis was part of a prestigious group — it is an intensive application process.

“I chose Mr. Lewis because he’s one of the most outstanding educators,” Sanford said. “He helps me out in all types of activities.”

Lewis, Sanford said, is active in enriching the partnership between the high school and the National Guard.

“It’s a great partnership with the National Guard and St. Marys Memorial High School,” he said.

“He is an absolute friend to the National Guard in the high school and in the community.”

Sanford noted a recent National Guard ceremony that was held at the high school.

“For the Call to Duty ceremony, he reached out to us and offered the school facilities,” Sanford said.

“Just like the school has in the past.”

Lewis said his morning that Thursday started with a briefing.

“We learned about the National Guard and the Air National Guard and talked about their programs,” he said.

“We were with the 121st Air Refueling Wing of the Air National Guard. We watched a video, we had a familiarization briefing of the Ohio National Guard, an overview of the mission.”

The mission — to participate in a refueling mission between two planes — was delayed for a few hours.

“After we did all the classroom stuff — the intros, the briefings — we went and visited a refueling hangar. They took us over to see a lot of military vehicles on what they call ‘static display.’ We saw weapons, Jeeps, Homeland Security vehicles.”

The educators boarded a cargo plane and went up in the air.

“We ate lunch on the plane,” Lewis said.”It was a big cargo plane. Once we were up in the air, we were free to walk around and go up to the cockpit.  We took turns going to the belly and watching the boom fuel the plane. It was very neat to be 30,000 feet up in the air and to be 50 feet from the other plane. It was a neat experience.”

The experience, Lewis said, helped him better understand the National Guard.

“We got to learn about the National Guard — we work with the military a lot,” he said.

“It’s good for us to be educated on what the military does. It was educational for me to know what goes into that and what they’re looking for in recruits — it was very educational.”

Lewis said Sanford asked him last school year if he could nominate him for the flight.

“I never thought anything about it until I got the confirmation e-mail,” Lewis said.

“I appreciate him nominating me for that — he comes in to the classes and for the kids to talk to him. They do a lot for the community, and I don’t think we even scratched the surface on what they can provide for us.”

Lewis noted the opportunity better informed him of the opportunities the Guard can provide for students.

“I enjoy the opportunity of getting to learn more about the Air National Guard and the Army National Guard,” he said.

“The more information we have, the more we can help our kids.”