FORT RILEY, Kan. (Army News Service, Feb. 26, 2007) - Eight Junction City High School students visited the 1st Infantry Division's Combat Aviation Brigade Feb. 8 to see UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters up close and learn about the day-to-day lives of aviation Soldiers.

The students shadowed mechanics of the brigade's Company D, 3rd Battalion, 1st Aviation Regiment, as the Soldiers performed routine inspections and light maintenance on the helicopters inside the battalion's hangar.

"It's interesting to see people who have absolutely no idea what the military is come here and find out what it really is and to see something they wouldn't have a chance normally to see," said Sgt. Justin Cummings, avionics mechanic with Co. D, 3rd Bn., 1st Avn. Regt. "Look how excited he is compared to how excited I am. This is just another day at work ... it's a playground for him."

Though the JCHS senior Cummings referred to, Andrew Van Cleave, is enrolled in his school's Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps program and his father is in the Army, he said he had been anxiously awaiting a chance to sit in the pilot's seat and was excited to see the helicopter's internal parts. His goal is to go up in a helicopter and one day pilot a Black Hawk.

"I plan to work on (Black Hawks) first and then eventually become a pilot - so, learn it before I fly it," Van Cleave said.

Van Cleave wasn't alone in his desire to someday take flight. Like his fellow students who participated in the job shadow, many are resolute in their goals of flying military aircraft.

"The reason I came out here is I'm aspiring to be a pilot," said Lawrence Moss, sophomore and JROTC cadet at JCHS. "I haven't had any experience, like hands on, in becoming a pilot or going into aviation, and this job shadow I heard about would tell me if this was a good experience or a bad experience - if it was something I would want to be instead of going to college."

Moss said he wants to go into the Air Force, or at least one of the military branches to either become a pilot or enter the medical field.

"I had a plan to go straight into the Air Force to become a fighter pilot, but I have to have more options," Moss said.

Moss and Van Cleave saw the engine up close as Spc. Joshua Callahan, Black Hawk mechanic, Co. D, 3rd Bn., 1st Avn. Regt., led them through inspections and maintenance.

"It went great," Moss said of the job-shadow day. "The Soldiers taught us about the aircraft really well. I learned some things I never knew about, like the technology they use in the helmets with the Apaches."

"I think it went well," said Pvt. Kevin Myren, Black Hawk mechanic with Co. D, 3rd Bn., 1st Avn. Regt. "I wish we would have had a little more maintenance for the students to actually see. The inspections were something they could see, but it's hard to really show them exactly what we do every day.

"It was neat to show them a little bit about the birds," Myren added. "We let them sit in there, and I think they liked being able to climb around on it too a little bit. I always feel good about helping out somebody who's possibly going to be in the Army later on, too."

Soldiers also supervised the students as each one sat in the pilots' seats to learn about the Black Hawk control panel and communications system.

"I'm going to be in my sleep every night now playing with the control panel," sophomore Nicholas Corey said after almost an hour behind the controls inside one of the Black Hawks with Cummings.

Cummings spent hours teaching the students about the avionics equipment inside, and beneath the skin of the helicopter. Though students spent nearly the whole day inside the hangar, a few of the students braved the cold to watch a Black Hawk take off from a safe proximity as they sat inside an adjacent helicopter with a Soldier.

"I think it was easy to interact with them," Myren said. "They seemed like a really good group of kids. They were smart, and had some good questions to ask."

(Spc. Stephen Baack writes for the 1st Infantry Division Public Affairs Office.)