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Tales from Antarctica
A general talks to kidsTwo special guests with a connection to penguins – or at least where they are famous for living –  visited Unadilla Valley Central School on Friday.

The appearance by Major General Anthony P. German and Senior Master Sgt. William Gizara helped Unadilla Valley students cap there One School, One Book program. The two Guardsmen met with younger elementary grades during Morning Program and then afterwards with grades 4 through 8 to share what it is like to support scientific missions to Antarctica.

This year, Unadilla Valley is reading Mr. Popper’s Penguins.  Mr. Popper’s Penguins is a children’s story first published in 1938. It’s the story of a house painter who is a fan of a polar explorer. In response to fan mail Mr. Popper sent the explorer, he receives a surprise in the mail – a penguin he names Captain Cook. Later he receives a second penguin, which leads to even more penguins and ultimately a bit of mayhem. 

Glenda Hoffmann, a  third grade interventionist, knows German from her church and coordinated the special visit. German, is the adjutant general of New York and the commander of the New York Air National Guard. He is also a former commander of the 109th Airlift Wing, famed for its Antarctica missions using specialized LC-130s. Gizara is the public affairs superintendent of the 109th. The men shared photos and other information about the important Antarctica missions. 

“General German is a pilot and flew many missions to Antarctica, carrying scientists and supplies to the scientific labs at the South Pole. The photos are amazing and a lovely finish to our book Mr. Popper's Penguins,” Hoffman said.

an air national guard sergeant takes questions from studentsGerman and Gizara shared an inspirational message with students – that even though they live in a quiet rural area, they can still achieve great things and visit strange and unusual places. Gizara said many of the members of the 109th Airlift wing, which is based in Glenville, come from small communities like the ones within Unadilla Valley CSD. 

“For us, it’s just great to get out in the community. We like to expose the kids to the fun things that the military can do. And it just opens up their minds,” German said. “We are doing things that make a difference.”

German said he and Gizara welcome the chance to visit schools and meet with students. Antarctica, he said, is an unusual place. The 109th's missions typically take place during the Antarctic summer – but summer is a relative term.

“It’s cold. It’s dry. It’s high in elevation. It’s a barren place,” German said. “Two weeks ago, when the wind was blowing here in New York and it was cold as all get out, that’s what Antarctica’s like.”
Major General German, left, stands with Glenda Hoffmann and Senior Master Sgt.
William Gizara, after their presentation Friday, Feb. 9, 2018.
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