For decades, kids have asked how to get to Sesame Street. And this week, at least, it seems the path goes through the E ring of the Pentagon.
Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson on Thursday posted a video in which she appears with iconic Sesame Street character Elmo and pink-and-purple fairy-in-training Abby Cadabby to teach kids about the importance of learning about science, technology, engineering and mathematics, or STEM. Nov. 8 was National STEM Day.
The video begins with “Dr. Heather,” as the Muppets call her, reassuring Elmo and Abby that they could grow up to become pilots. (That’s one way to fix the Air Force’s pilot shortfall.)
But that’s not all, she tells them, a STEM education can help prepare them to become a scientist, inventor, astronaut or engineer in the Air Force. (It appears Elmo and Abby share the public’s common misconception that everybody in the Air Force is a pilot.)
With its many highly technical missions, the Air Force is focused on trying to recruit skilled and intelligent young people with backgrounds in STEM fields. In 2015, former Air Force Chief Scientist Mica Endsley told reporters that the military needs to bolster that expertise to keep up with the technology advancements of potential adversaries.
The video also includes the address for the Sesame Workshop’s Military Families Initiative, which aims to help children of service members build resilience, and cope with challenges such as their parent’s deployment.
Dr. Heather isn’t the first top Air Force official to meet with Sesame Street characters. Former Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh and his wife, Betty, in 2014 filmed a pair of video messages with Elmo and another character, Rosita, in which he thanked Air Force kids for supporting their parents.
Stephen Losey is the air warfare reporter for Defense News. He previously covered leadership and personnel issues at Air Force Times, and the Pentagon, special operations and air warfare at Military.com. He has traveled to the Middle East to cover U.S. Air Force operations.