GREEN — Hundreds of students, teachers and visitors on the lawn could hear the Black Hawk helicopter before it crested over Green Elementary School Monday.
After it landed, Lila Clary and Rylee Jo Davis, both 7, hugged each other as they waited their turn to climb inside the cockpit.
“We like pilots,” Rylee Jo said.
“When we grow up, we’re going to be one,” Lila said.
“Someday, me and Lila want to be the same thing,” Rylee Jo said. “We asked (the pilot) questions about the planes.”
The girls clung to each other, except when they surrounded Capt. Lexi McRobert for a photo. Lila said she had “never ever” met a female pilot before.
“She’s so nice to us,” Lila said.
McRobert has been in the U.S. National Guard for seven years and has a been a pilot for five of them.
“I think that it’s definitely one of those things where growing up, everyone tells you it’s super hard, but really you just have to want to work for it,” McRobert said. “Anything you put your mind to, you can do it, it doesn’t matter if you’re a boy or a girl.”
McRobert and the four-person crew flew the helicopter to Green Elementary School on Monday as part of a volunteer community visit. The crew acts as an air ambulance for wildfire and rescue needs in Oregon.
Mike Buchan used to be a crew member and was back on leave from his first deployment when his daughter, Brooklyn Buchan, 9, was born. She’s spent her whole life around the unit and he wanted to make sure other kids her age could see what the U.S. National Guard does.
“I knew how much schools enjoyed them,” Buchan said. “I really like kids being about to see the National Guard right in their backyard. Everybody loves helicopters so this is a great way to do that. It gives them an opportunity to see what’s available in the state. They don’t have to go places to get it.”
He asked the school’s principal, Amy Jo Rodriguez, about applying to have the U.S. National Guard come to the school and helped her fill out the application and see it through.
Behavior and Instruction Support Specialist Dawn Parker helped coordinate the helicopter landing. She said the event was well worth the wait to see the students get excited.
“This has been a great event,” Parker said. “Every kid has been so excited and had nothing but positive things to say. This is definitely a life-changer for them. This is something they’ll never forget. This is what education is all about — doing things that will impact them for the rest of their life.”
Floyd Bodefield, 6, dragged McRoberts away from watching a series of children admire the cockpit packed with buttons, dials, screens and joysticks, to ask her about every detail on the tail end of the helicopter.
“What is that?” Bodefield asked, pointing to the exhaust, clips for attachments, antenna and a red light on the bottom of the tail.
McRobert answered each question in terms a six-year-old could understand.
“I personally like doing the (events for) younger kids,” McRobert said. “It’s really fun to see them get excited and instill that fire in them when they are really young.”
Ian Carroll, 11, followed other crew members around, asking questions about the equipment they used and what it was like to be in the air. He said he wants to join the Army or the Air Force when he grows up.
“It’s just jaw-dropping,” Ian said. “I didn’t think it would be this big. It’s crazy to look at what I might do or see. I want to help the county and keep us free.”
Chief Warrant Officer Dennis Cooper said Ian is right around the age the National Guard starts its early recruiting efforts, but they interact with younger kids for community support.
“I think most educators and counselors will probably tell you that’s probably the age group that you have the most significant influence on their life decision skills,” Cooper said. “It’s our pleasure, it’s our honor to go out there and support the communities.”