Black Hawk flight piques interest in Guard careers

By Spc. Katie Mazos
Public Affairs Office

Fifty-four Naval Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps cadets from Shawnee Mission North and Shawnee Mission West high schools started the school year off right with a ride in a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter on Sept. 4. The event was supported by pilots and crew chiefs from Company A, 1st Battalion, 108th Aviation.

JROTC students from Wichita-area high schools lift off in a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter flown by soldiers of Company A, 1st Battalion, 108th Aviation, Kansas Army National Guard. (Photo by Spc. Katie Mazos, Public Affairs Office)

“We do these recruiting and retention flights so we can show these kids how the aircraft works and what we do as crew members,” said Staff. Sgt. Robert Patrick, a UH-60 Black Hawk crew chief. “This gives them a close-up experience.”

The weather proved to be a great day for fun, flying, and talking about their future plans. The morning started off with a presentation from Kansas Army National Guard recruiters about what options they have after they graduate, then moved onto orientation flights in the Black Hawks. Even though the students come from different high schools, they could all agree on one thing: It was an experience they won’t forget.

“The view was beautiful,” Jordan Dorton, a senior student from Shawnee Mission North High School, said. “I don’t think pictures could even describe how wonderful (the view) was.”

“Watching what they do was so awesome,” said Laila Marie Long, a student from Shawnee Mission North High School. “I want to do that one day eventually!”

JROTC students from Wichita-area high schools prepare to take off in a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter as part of an orientation flight sponsored by the Kansas Army National Guard Recruiting and Retention Battalion. (Photo by Spc. Katie Mazos, Public Affairs Office)

“I wanted to be a pilot for a long time, and this makes me want to do it [the career field] even more now,” said Carlee O’Neill, a senior at Shawnee Mission North High School. “I’m so fortunate to have this opportunity presented to me.”

The cadets weren’t the only ones that had a great time riding in the helicopters. Retired Marine Chief Warrant Officer Dennis Grayless, the senior NJROTC instructor for Shawnee Mission North High School, said he had just as much fun as the cadets.

“The cadets had an absolute blast,” said Grayless, “and so did an old guy like me.”

“I think when most of these kids join ROTC, they initially have some sort of interest in joining some branch of the military,” Grayless said. “This [the recruiting event] just enhances that even more.”