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NEWS | Sept. 21, 2010

New school year brings more GAMER sessions to Randolph

By Robert Goetz 502nd Air Base Wing OL-B Public Affairs

With the beginning of a new school year, Randolph will resume its participation in a program that provides positive role models for at-risk students and has been credited with improving graduation rates and reducing absenteeism.

Some 200 students from Dwight Middle School in the San Antonio Independent School District are expected to visit Randolph Wednesday for the base's first GAMER session of the 2010-11 school year.

GAMER, which stands for Giving Americans Motivational Education for the Real World, was created by former Air Force cardiologist Dr. Edwin "Eli" Whitney, who now practices in San Antonio, to motivate inner-city youth to continue their studies and pursue higher education while obtaining better life skills.

For the past year and a half, Randolph has served as one of the host sites for educational expeditions that are part of the San Antonio-based program, which exposes students to successful people in higher education, business, industry and the military. Prominent members of the San Antonio community who take part in the program include businessman Red McCombs and Bexar County District Attorney Susan Reed.

"With a little bit of effort, we can make an impact in the community," said Maj. Joel Neeb, 12th Operations Group Standardization and Evaluation Division T-38C Pilot Instructor Training Branch chief. "We can show students the path to make it happen. If that's all it takes, how can we not tell these kids our stories?"

Next week's session will begin at the base theater, where Major Neeb will present the Operation Red Flag video and talk about the way he was able to break away from negative influences to forge a successful career as an Air Force pilot. Students will later see demonstrations by the 902nd Security Forces Squadron's military working dogs and their trainers and Randolph Fire Emergency Services and hear the success stories of active-duty and civilian personnel at Randolph. Sessions will continue on Wednesdays throughout the school year.

Major Neeb, who has played a major role in the program since Randolph began its participation, said the speakers here represent a variety of backgrounds, but some have life experiences similar to those of many of the students who are listening to them.

"When we say it, there's an element of credibility because of where we came from," he said. "We tell them about our journeys and how we made it out of our environments by making good decisions."

By listening to the stories, students who participate in the program learn they have options that will lead them to a better tomorrow, including the Air Force, Major Neeb said.

"The program just exposes them to something different from what they're used to," he said. "Some of them only know about the gangs and drug dealers. This gives them a roadmap for success."

Major Neeb said GAMER's effectiveness is evidenced by a fund-raising effort that has netted more than $1.5 million as well as hundreds of letters commending the program. State and national officials have expressed interest in funding GAMER as a way to lower dropout rates and increase graduation rates. Col. Ron Buckley, the former 12th Operations Group commander who now leads the 366th Fighter Wing at Mountain Home Air Force Base, Idaho, is pursuing the same program at his base.

He said the program is seeking more volunteers to speak to students, both at Randolph and at sites across the city. Their only requirement is to correlate the Air Force's core values to their stories.

"All these students need is somebody to connect with them," Major Neeb said.

For more information, call Major Neeb at 652-6366 or e-mail him at