Educating youth part of ‘Snowbirds’ role

Grade five students at Huffman and Robert Moore here got a chance to hear first-hand about the job of a Canadian Forces “Snowbird” when a pilot and an avionics technician paid a one-hour visit to each school last Thursday morning.
Besides a video presentation, and a question and answer session, each pair gave a brief lecture on an awareness program introduced at schools in communities on the team’s schedule.
The Snowbirds are ambassadors for “Smartrisk”–an educational program which helps promote increased awareness in youth about hazardous situations.
“The goal of ‘Smartrisk’ is to get young people to start thinking about risks and to be smart about them,” explained Capt. Scott Shrubsole (#6 pilot) at Huffman School.
“Smartrisk” decisions include keen observation of a risky situation, abstaining from alcohol when driving, getting trained before attempting risky sports, and to use the necessary equipment for activities such as skateboarding and roller-blading.
Capt. Shrubsole said statistics show a large number of accidents involving children are the result of taking unnecessary risks, noting that included broken wrists in skateboarding.
“If you wore wrist bands, that wouldn’t happen,” he stressed.
He also encouraged the students to avoid walking the “stupid line” down the road when they become licensed to drive a vehicle.
“If there’s one decision you remember from the list, let it be this one–don’t drink and drive,” he stressed.
Both Capt. Shrubsole and Cpl. Mike Sanikopoulos (#6 avionics technician) said the entire Snowbirds team emulated the “Smartrisk” approach, noting the lives of every team member depended on wise decision-making.
That’s especially important given the speeds the Tutor jets travel during Snowbird shows.
“It’s a half-hour of uninterrupted concentration. It’s tough to co-ordinate,” said Capt. Shrubsole.
“The jets fly at about 300 knots [555 km/h] during the show, and can reach speeds of 416 knots [770 km/h] when we’re trying to catch up with each other,” he added.
Capt. Shrubsole also stressed the importance of pursuing one’s education, ranking it at the top of the list when keeping career doors open.
“I saw the Snowbirds when I was young and ever [after] it was a goal of mine to be one. I did everything I needed to do to reach my goal,” he said.
“And if there was one thing that helped get me where I am today, it would be my educational career,” he added.
“I stuck with my education, [too]. It was the wisest choice that helped me,” echoed Cpl. Sanikopoulos.
The Snowbirds’ positive message to area youth also was evident at show centre before and after Thursday evening’s performance, said co-organizer Mark Kowalchuk.
“For the kids, they certainly are role models. That may seem a bit trite given they are only here for a short time but something happens,” he remarked.
“The kids are in awe of everything–the way the Snowbirds carry themselves, their uniforms, and the fact that they had time for them afterwards,” he added.