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By the letter: Airmen help students by being pen pals

OSAN AIR BASE, Republic of Korea --  Staff Sgt. Chris Cugier, 607th Air Operations Center, reads a letter from his new 2nd grader pen pal Oct. 26. Tech. Sgt. C.J. Baker, 607th Air Intelligence Squadron, and Veronica Flowers, a teacher at Delmae Heights Elementary School in Florence, S.C., created a program in which her students and Osan Airmen will be pen pals for one year. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Ronnie Hill)

OSAN AIR BASE, Republic of Korea -- Staff Sgt. Chris Cugier, 607th Air Operations Center, reads a letter from his new 2nd grader pen pal Oct. 26. Tech. Sgt. C.J. Baker, 607th Air Intelligence Squadron, and Veronica Flowers, a teacher at Delmae Heights Elementary School in Florence, S.C., created a program in which her students and Osan Airmen will be pen pals for one year. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Ronnie Hill)

OSAN AIR BASE, Republic of Korea --  Airmen with the Republic of Korea Air Force read a letter from a 2nd grade students at Delmae Heights Elementary School on Oct. 26. Tech. Sgt. C.J. Baker, 607th Air Intelligence Squadron, and Veronica Flowers, a teacher at Delmae Heights in Florence, S.C., started a program in which Osan Airmen will be pen pals for one year with her 20 students. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Ronnie Hill)

OSAN AIR BASE, Republic of Korea -- Airmen with the Republic of Korea Air Force read a letter from a 2nd grade students at Delmae Heights Elementary School on Oct. 26. Tech. Sgt. C.J. Baker, 607th Air Intelligence Squadron, and Veronica Flowers, a teacher at Delmae Heights in Florence, S.C., started a program in which Osan Airmen will be pen pals for one year with her 20 students. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Ronnie Hill)

OSAN AIR BASE, Republic of Korea --  Tech. Sgt. C.J. Baker, 607th Air Intelligence Squadron, hands a letter to Col. Michael Canna, 607th Air Intelligence Group commander, Oct. 26 here. Sergeant Baker, along with Florerence, S.C., teacher Veronica Flowers, started a project in which Ms. Flower's 20 2nd grade students will be pen pals for one year with Osan Airmen. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Ronnie Hill)

OSAN AIR BASE, Republic of Korea -- Tech. Sgt. C.J. Baker, 607th Air Intelligence Squadron, hands a letter to Col. Michael Canna, 607th Air Intelligence Group commander, Oct. 26 here. Sergeant Baker, along with Florerence, S.C., teacher Veronica Flowers, started a project in which Ms. Flower's 20 2nd grade students will be pen pals for one year with Osan Airmen. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Ronnie Hill)

OSAN AIR BASE, Republic of Korea -- How do you help children improve their writing skills and teach them about the Air Force at the same time?

A teacher in Florence, S.C., and an Airman at Osan came up with a plan to do just that, starting a pen pal program between Airmen and 2nd grade students.

Veronica Flowers and Tech. Sgt. C.J. Baker, friends since high school, initially discussed having her 20 students write to him and he would respond with a letter to be read aloud to the class. Sergeant Baker then came up with another idea.

"I thought that it would be a nice idea to get some of my fellow Airmen to share in this rewarding experience with me," said Sergeant Baker, who works in the 607th Air Intelligence Squadron here. "I asked around the office and dorms to see if anyone would be interested in writing these children, and I got a very positive response."

When he told Ms. Flowers of his idea, "she was ecstatic."

"I know that everyone loves to get letters in the mail," said the Delmae Heights Elementary School teacher. "And after talking with Sergeant Baker, I knew that this would be the perfect way to get the kids writing and make someone else smile at the same time."

She told her students about the project soon after, explaining they would be writing letters to people responsible for helping America stay safe. She said the new pen pals were far from home and their letters would give them a "taste of home."

"I see it as a win-win, not only for our Airmen, but also for the children," said Sergeant Baker. "They're learning an invaluable skill, and it's a fun and rewarding experience for them as well."

The Airmen pen pals, who received their first letters Oct. 26, said they're excited to share their experiences in the military and answer the children's questions on Korea. One staff sergeant said projects like this are a morale booster.

"It's a reassurance of why I serve (in the military)," said Staff Sgt. Chris Cugier, 607th Air Operations Center. "(It's) to protect this young man and people's freedoms."
Ms. Flowers said she hopes the Airmen realize they are really helping her students.

"There is nothing in the world like being a teacher and helping someone else learn," said the 10-year teaching veteran. "I am hoping that the Airmen get the chance to feel like a great teacher by seeing how much their pen pal grows in their writing ability as the letters come and go. Knowing that they took part in educating a child will hopefully bring joy to their hearts."