Students get a free ride with Army pilots

Carson High School Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps students were flying high above campus Tuesday in two Army National Guard helicopters.

The event was designed to pique the students' interest in part-time service or a lifelong career in the military.

Tuesday's demonstration included a twin-prop Chinook transport helicopter and a Blackhawk helicopter, two of the operating staples of the Army National Guard Aviation Support facility in Stead.

"It's an orientation run for ROTC students to bring attention to what they do and what the National Guard does," said Army National Guard Sgt. Tom McFarland.

Of the approximately 1,600 Army National Guard members in Nevada, 150 run the two aviation units.

The Chinook company works firefighting and transport-related operations and the Air Ambulance company flies injured people and performs searches and rescues.

Forty-eight students were taken up in two groups mid-morning, when they went on a 20 minute flight and were set back down near campus.

"It's something we've done before on an irregular basis," McFarland said. "We would like it to become an annual thing."

McFarland said the National Guard, like other branches of military statewide and nationally, is hurting for recruits and these types of operations remind people of the military option.

"We do open houses and go to malls and set up static displays with tanks and things," he said. "We do it at least monthly to spark people's interest. We're planning an open house in Reno on May 19."

McFarland added that the Junior ROTC program at Carson High School is looking to expand.

Carson High School student Melissa Leist has already committed herself to the Army National Guard. At 17 years old, she is one of the youngest who works out of the Stead aviation support facility, McFarland said.

Members of the National Guard sign up for enlistment periods between three and six years, with training one weekend a month and two weeks a year.


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