By Anthony Scott

Killeen Daily Herald

FORT HOOD - About 30 AVID students from Rancier Middle School toured Fort Hood's airfield Friday morning, where countless helicopters come and go. Each was given a chance to jump in a real cockpit and see what being a pilot is like up close.

Though the students didn't fly in any real helicopters, they went up in flight simulation and were allowed to take control of the faux flight and see a career option they might not have thought about.

"It feels better than watching it on TV because on TV it looks like they make stuff up; but when you're by it, you can see everything, how they control it, how they start it," said Sabrina Garcia, an eighth-grade student who jumped at the chance to get in a Black Hawk simulator after seeing one up close. "Now I want to be a pilot."

Garcia said she had never seen a Black Hawk up close until Friday.

AVID, which stands for Advancement Via Individual Determination, is a program for fourth- through 12th-graders that prepares students for higher education and beyond.

AVID tutor Shaunese Falkner said the trip didn't just give children an excuse to get out of class. It gave them 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.'"

The children were also allowed to take a peek into what Army food can be like, with each trying an MRE (Meals Ready to Eat) for lunch. Reviews were mixed.

Chief Warrant Officer-4 Ken Woods, of the 21st Cavalry Brigade, said many of the soldiers who toured the facility for the children came in on their day off to do the event.

"I'd love nothing 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."

Once upon a time, Woods said he was like those children who were standing outside the fence staring into the post.

"Someone took me and said, 'Hey, let me put something in your kit bag; Your experiment 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."

Contact Anthony Scott at or (254) 501-7568. Follow him on Twitter at KDHcity.

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