By Anthony Scott
Fort Hood Herald
About 30 Rancier Middle School Advancement Via Individual Determination students were in flight simulators and chowing down on MREs Friday morning, all while their classmates were stuck in class.
Meanwhile, a handful of adults at the Hood Army Airfield came to show the students around on what could have been a day off.
Each student was given a chance to jump in a real cockpit and see what being a pilot is like up close at the airfield, and a chance to interact with the pilots. Black Hawks, Apaches and Chinooks were set up for static demonstrations.
"I'd love nothing (than) more for one of these kids to take my job one day, but without this experience they'll never know that this is even available to them," said Chief Warrant Officer-4 Ken Woods of the command's Aviation Test Directorate.
Once upon a time, Woods said he was like those children who were standing on the outside of the fence staring into the post.
Woods told the children that in life people are given tools to succeed that they can keep in their own kit box. The experience they would have on post would be on of those memories they can use for the future.
"Someone took me and said, 'hey, let me put something in your kit bag, your experience box,'" he said. "And with that, here I am. And it started with me coming with a guy or a girl who said, 'Hey let's take a look at this.' "
Via simulation, the students took control in the virtual world of the helicopters they got to see in person. They also got to take a bite out of what real life is like for soldiers. Each was allowed to pick out an MRE for lunch. Reviews were mixed.
Advancement Via Individual Determination Tutor Shaunese Falkner said the trip didn't just give children an excuse to get out of class. It gave the children a chance to start examining what they might want to do for a living.
"It makes them think beyond what they're used to thinking," she said. "They never thought that sitting in a helicopter would feel like that, so now it's like, "Oh, I might not want to be a graphic designer, I may want to be a pilot.'"
Eighth-grade student Sabrina Garcia jumped at the chance to fly the simulation of a Black Hawk, which she saw at the static demonstration at the airfield. While she'd never seen a Black Hawk up close before Friday, she was inspired by how it helped others.
"It feels better than watching it on TV, because on TV it looks like they make stuff up," Garcia said. "But when you're by it you can see everything, how they control it, how they start it.
"Now I want to be a pilot."
Contact Anthony Scott at email@example.com or (254) 501-7568. Follow him on Twitter at KDHcity.