911th Steel Airman lends voice to Shaler Area Stories Podcast

  • Published
  • By Master Sgt. Jeffrey Grossi
  • 911th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

Tech Sgt. Jim Hartz, Commander's Support NCO in charge, 911th Force Support Squadron, lent his voice and insights to the Shaler Stories Podcast, a program hosted and produced by students of Shaler Area Middle School.

Hartz's involvement in the podcast stemmed from an invitation extended to him following his attendance at a veterans breakfast event in 2023. Eager to share his experiences and offer guidance to the younger generation, Hartz gladly accepted the opportunity.

During his appearance on the podcast, Hartz delved into various aspects of military life, offering a glimpse into his journey from basic military training to his current role in the Air Force Reserve. Among the topics discussed, Hartz shed light on the challenges and rewards of military service, emphasizing the importance of resilience and adaptability, and how the Air Force itself has developed over time.

One notable highlight of Hartz's discussion was recounting his experience supporting evacuees from Kabul in 2021. Providing firsthand insight into the role and emotional complexities during the operation, Hartz offered a unique perspective to the students and listeners.

In one story, Hartz asked Shaler Middle School student and podcast host, Lucas B., what they would take if they had to leave the country immediately. After some thought Lucas responded that they'd bring their phone to stay in contact with family. Hartz revealed one thing that stuck with him when fulfilling his duties of transporting evacuees was that several young women were carrying heavy mathematics texts books written in English.

"Those books meant so much to them that they couldn't bear to leave them behind," said Hartz." Sometimes I have this thought of one day in the future running into one of those kids and they've grown up to be a doctor or something. That would make it all worth it."

Hartz shared another "timestamp" moment from the evacuations of a blond haired, blue-eyed boy who, amongst the disarray of one of the largest airlift operations in history (some 88,000 people in the course of a week), found his way to Hartz's bus, alone and inconsolable.

"Oh my God, thats my son — I had to do a double take," said Hartz. "This little boy was just so out of place. I never found out who he was or what happened to him. All i know is one family treated him like he was one of their own and did their best to console him. I will never forget seeing that kind of compassion."

The Shaler Stories Podcast aims to use the platform to enhance students' media literacy and provide a place for meaningful conversations and storytelling within the Shaler community. Hartz's participation exemplifies the podcast's goal to share stories and opportunities that benefit their students.

"Tech Sgt. Hartz was very personable and a great speaker, said Ms. Brenda Barner, Shaler Area Middle School English Language Arts teache. "He was able to motivate students with his stories and lessons. We appreciated his time and effort. We would love to have him back next year."

Barner, the catalyst for the podcast had the idea since before the COVID-19 pandemic, evolving an older micro-blog into something more students were more apt to be interested in and hoping to inform reluctant readers about opportunities and issues around the world.

Barner said the first half of the course is is learning about media literacy: bias, fake news, AI deepfakes, misinformation vs. disinformation. The second half of the year, students research local business leaders, non-profit organizers, and veterans.

Hartz's episode of the Shaler Stories Podcast is scheduled for release in in-May following the creation of their website. Listeners can tune in at the the Shaler Area Middle School home page to hear his full interview and gain valuable insights into the world of Reserve Citizen Airmen.