Black Hawk scores big with Lincoln kids

May 20, 2004|EMILY BURTON

In times of combat, it can hold 23 soldiers; in times of torrential rain, about 50 middle-schoolers.

The infamous Black Hawk helicopter pulled double duty Wednesday afternoon, bearing National Guardsmen and students alike as the skies opened and thunder flew.

The chopper touched down at Lincoln County Middle School to provide a stunning in-house field trip for students and, moments after arrival, emergency rain shelter for a few brave souls.

"If they want to see it in the rain, we'll show it to them in the rain," said Maj. Mark Sherman. Clustered in the army-green shelter of the chopper, several Lincoln County students came to visit with their uncle, Guardsman Sgt. Lewis Simpson.


"I think it's neat. I asked Ms. Sims if it could come," said Simpson's niece, Kasey Clem. Students in Sims' social studies class had discussed the chopper and the military in class before its arrival, said Clem.

"It's really neat. They (classmates) were really looking forward to it, 'cause they say nothing ever happens in Lincoln County," said Clem.

In the cockpit, Sgt. Simpson's nephew, Jacob Simpson of Hustonville Elementary, gripped the control yoke with steely calm and pushed red buttons like a pro.

"He's already said he wants to do this. Little fellow's only 5," said dad Kelly Simpson.

"That's how I got my start," said Lt. Col. Edward M. Zoeller. "It was a C141. I got to sit up in the cockpit."

Such visits are part of their service to the commonwealth

Such educational visits to students around the state are part of their service to the commonwealth, and are often met wide-eyed by students who are "always very positive," said Zoeller.

Some questions arise no matter what the location, said Zoeller. How long does it take to learn to fly? What does the Guard do? Can I take a ride?

"We tell about what we do and talk about what the military is all about," said Zoeller, including the "last option in the political will of the nation," war. But students also can learn of ways the guard helps them at home. It was the reason Zoeller joined the Guard, he said.

"Because I get to help people. We have a duel mission of the National Guard. We take all our war-time skills and put them to use helping people of the commonwealth," said Zoeller. "When nobody else can go, when the electricity is out and the food is gone and the roads are all iced over, call in the National Guard."

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