Army Black Hawk touches down

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Photo by: Peter Dang

HANDS ON: Chief Warrant Officer Billy Black shows senior Walter Esparza the helicopter flight controls. Black was a cadet in JROTC when he attended Bowie.

Peter Dang, Editor in Chief

Texas National Guard demonstrates aviation to JROTC and STEM classes

The morning sun shines across the field, the skies are clear, the air cool and brisk. From the Northwest a US Army Black Hawk helicopter appears, the air is filled with the chopping sound from the blades as they cut through the air as the helicopter approaches. The helicopter circles the field and then descends onto the practice football field, grass is blown in every direction.

The demonstration started as an offer to the JROTC from Bowie parent Colonel Joanne Macgregor who pilots Black Hawk helicopters. After getting school and district approval, STEM classes were invited to join the event as well.

“I thought it was a great opportunity to come out and share a little bit about what the National Guard does for our communities and to educate,” Macgregor said. “It was also a great opportunity to talk to students about science and engineering in aviation, and to talk to the Air Force JROTC cadets about opportunities in the National Guard.”

For Chief Warrant Officer Billy Black, coming back to his high school to demonstrate his job is special to him. Black is a maintenance test pilot and maintenance manager for the Texas Army National Guard. He manages the health of the helicopters and verifies the airworthiness of their aircraft to make sure they are ready whenever they are needed.

“I went to Bowie from 1995 to 1999, I was in the Air Force Junior ROTC,” Black said. “To be able to give back to the school that provided so much for me has been wonderful.”

Black recalls deciding what he wanted as a career after going to a demonstration similar to this one.

“I was recruited as a junior in high school through the Texas Army National Guard program just like this, but the JROTC took me out to see the helicopters and instead of bringing the helicopters to the students.” Black said. “My hope is that some of the students are maybe thinking about this as a career and if nothing else they know a little bit more about what we do for the state of Texas.”

In addition to the crew that flew to Bowie in the helicopter. A swift water rescue swimmer from Texas Task Force 1 also came. He brought his rescue gear to demonstrate how he works with the National Guard and its helicopters in search and rescue missions such as in flooding situations.

“I liked the rescue swimmer from Task Force 1,” senior Derek Perez said. “It was really interesting when he was explaining how he connects people to the helicopter when rescuing them. It was really neat.”

Students had many questions to ask the helicopter crew. Students were curious about the mechanics of the helicopter and the materials it is built of. Many had questions about what different buttons, switches and controls did when they sat in the cockpit.

“We had some really curious folks which I loved, they wanted to know everything about the helicopter,” Macgregor said. “I was very impressed with the level of their questions the students asked, they were very advanced.”

After cadets were done with their tour of the helicopter, Macgregor asked cadets how many of them were interested in ROTC in college or in serving in the armed forces. Almost every cadet raised their hand.

“I have already considered the military because they will pay for college,” sophomore Liana Tidwell said. “The National Guard is interesting because I like doing more local things.”

For cadets, this is will not be the last time that they will get to spend time with the crew and around the helicopter this school year.

“We are planning on giving cadets a ride in a helicopter in the spring because they are enrolled in ROTC they’re allowed to fly in the back of a helicopter,” Macgregor said. “For cadets interested in aviation, they can get a sample of what it’s like to fly a helicopter to see if that’s something they want to further explore.”

Photo by: Peter Dang
TAKE OFF: Colonel Joanne Macgregor and her crew take off after finishing their demonstration. The Texas Army National Guard performs demonstrations at high schools throughout Texas.