WILMINGTON — There was an air of excitement at Ursuline Academy the morning of Feb. 1 as students from the Lower School watched three military trucks pull into the driveway for a Catholic Schools Week visit. Five members of the 21st Weapons of Mass Destruction-Civil Support Team from the New Jersey Army National Guard hopped out, and the fun began.
It was part of military appreciation during Catholic Schools Week. Samantha Varano, the principal of the Lower School, said the school wanted to do something for service personnel, so she contacted Sgt. John Ewasko, a Delaware resident who is a member of the 21st. To Ursuline fifth-grader Lindsay, first-grader Abby and kindergartener Christopher, he’s just Dad.
So while the students collected items for military members, Ewasko planned the visit. He brought with him Sgt. Anthony Norrish, a medic; Staff Sgts. Nick Lam and Mauricio Caceres, survey team chiefs; and Sgt. Alex Potts, a survey team member who works the rotot they use in hazardous situations and doubles as their information technology guru.
“Do the Eagles have a good team?” Ewakso asked the students. “Well, I have a great team.”
Speaking of the Eagles, he said, the Super Bowl is an example of an occasion where civil support teams are utilized.
“We make sure we keep people safe at large events,” he explained.
The children jumped at the chance to explore the equipment. They were able to walk through the ambulance while Norrish showed them various pieces of medical equipment he uses in emergencies, such as a tube with a light and a camera that he can use to see obstructions down into the throat. He also took a few trips up and down on the motorized lift that can be used to get an injured person into the ambulance.
Other students crowded into the front of Ewasko’s truck, talking turns at the wheel. The robot was a big hit as Potts used his remote control and tablet go guide it around the parking lot. He told the students he could control the robot from about a football field away, even if he could not see it.
The children also had a chance to step inside a hazmat suit, although the adult-size suits swallowed them up.
Ewasko said he appreciated the opportunity to visit Ursuline and spend some time with his children and their friends.
“It’s fantastic for me because they know I’m gone a lot for work. I do a lot of support missions where I have to go out and protect people in different areas of the country. Unfortunately, that does take a toll on the family being gone so long, so to be able to let them see who I work with and what I do, it’s great,” he said.
In his 22 years in the military, he continued, this is the best job he’s had.
“I love what I do and the mission that I have, to be able to protect people here in the United States,” he said.
Varano said one of the goals of the event was to teach the students “to respect and appreciate the people that protect America.” The cool equipment, she added, was a nice bonus.
“We had no idea what they were going to bring. I didn’t realize it was going to be so interactive, but this is awesome. The kids are really learning about the equipment and what they do. It’s a neat experience for them.”
All photos by Mike Lang.