The General Colin L. Powell Leadership Academy and JROTC cadets have been working hard all year. To reward their commitment to academics, character, teamwork and integrity, each cadet went on a thrilling ride in an $18 million machine, the US Army’s primary medium utility transport and a mainstay of our armed forces since 1978 – a Black Hawk helicopter.

After splitting into two groups to take turns, the first group took their flight while the second group got a close up look at the teamwork and maintenance necessary to keep the impressive machines in flight. The Black Hawks looked powerful and imposing while the cadets explored them with awe.

Although the cadets were excited, some were nervous to get on board and fly high above the metro area. Cadet Carlos R.R. asked me if I was nervous. “No,” I replied, “I’m excited. How about you?” He explained that he was not because he had flown before, but his fellow cadet sitting next to him, was. It was his first time up in either a helicopter or plane, and he did not know what to expect.

As we flew along the river, Colonel Neil Hetherington, a senior army instructor, looked at me and mouthed, “Beautiful.” It was far too noisy to hear words, especially given the ear protection, but the sentiment was obvious. The Mississippi River and parks were gorgeous from above. With a bird’s eye view, we saw a common view from a different perspective.

Using its four-bladed twin-engines, the Black Hawk is also quick to maneuver and the consequence of that was something we also discovered. The pilot eased the helicopter down low, buzzed over what looked to be a landing strip and then shot back up to quickly regain our altitude.
“It felt like we had no gravity under us,” expressed Cadet Hunter H.

During the ups and downs and sharp turns, Cadet Jaquan R. smiled and shook his head no, but he kept his cool. I felt like my stomach was in my throat. Crew Chief Tamarez laughed under his helmet and slapped his leg as he watched our reactions. Throughout the flight, he encouraged us with a thumbs up.

I left the experience feeling grateful for the reward we all received. I also felt thankful for being part of such a strong community made up of caring, respectful and dedicated youth. Each day the cadets make a choice – to show up and work hard. They build upon their character, academics and integrity as a team.

According to Cadet Brian V.L., JROTC motivates him every day. It’s because of the fun they have while learning, and because JROTC makes him feel like he has another family. And, that is both the consequence and reward of their choices.