At Ames Elementary School March 30, Damiene Roberts, a young Air Force staff sergeant dressed in Universal Camouflage Pattern fatigues, crouched into a small chair holding a hardcover picture book.

"OK, let's do this," he said.

The dozen or so second-graders sitting on the rug in front of him listened dutifully as he read Tops and Bottoms, an illustrated allegory about a hare who swindles a bear out of several seasons' worth of farm veggies. Afterward, Roberts took questions from the students, many of whom simply wanted to name the relatives they had in the armed services.

Roberts told the students he worked on UAVs, "which are drones. But that's about all I can say about that."

Several students wanted to know more, and Roberts added that they were Predator and Reaper drones, the same ones used in the Call of Duty games.

Had he ever been in a country where he didn't speak the language? Roberts said he had, and that he had been able to communicate using a smartphone and a Google translation feature.

Are girls allowed to work in the Air Force, a girl asked? Roberts said they are, and that he works with some. A boy wanted to know their names. Roberts said he was not allowed to share that information.

Three older veterans, James Roberts Jr., William Pollock and Carmine Pecorelli, also came to the school with Damiene Roberts as part of the National Education Association's Read Across America program. Past guest readers have included the district superintendent, town selectmen and National Honor Society members.

The veterans passed out small flags and split up across several classrooms to read to students, then posed with the classes for a group photo in the cafeteria.