0426NATGUARDAUDListen to students give their impressions of the helicopter.
OAKWOOD — All eyes were on the skies Friday morning at West Hall High School, as a Georgia Army National Guard unit arrived in a Black Hawk helicopter.
The assault helicopter landed on the practice field outside the school, as wide-eyed students stood on a bank nearby.
A few minutes later, after the crew readied the craft for visitors, the students swarmed the helicopter, inspecting control panels and the compartment housing passenger seating.
But not before they got some quick instructions from Sgt. Lou Qualtiere, one of the helicopter’s crew chiefs.
"You can go in, climb on the seats, you can wiggle the controls around, you can take pictures, you can take movies, whatever you guys want to do," he said."The one thing I ask you not to do is anything that’s red or yellow, you don’t want to touch. ... Things will start falling off and going off, and you really don’t want that."
The craft generally costs, with "upgrades," about $8 million to produce, said Capt. Ernest Polk of the 1/171st Combat Support Aviation Battalion at Dobbins.
Sgt. Reinier Perez, a Hall County recruiter for the National Guard, and Sgt. Christopher Graff, who recruits in Dawsonville, welcomed the crew as they arrived.
Always on the lookout for recruits, Perez said the visit wasn’t any sort of "special occasion." All students had a chance to go through the copter.
"I thought it would be something fun they could enjoy and at the same time telling those things we try to do," he said. "We always try to find a link between the National Guard and the community."
Polk said his unit gets requests to show off the Black Hawk.
"If we are able to support it, we’ll do it," he said. "We fly other missions through the week, so we stay pretty busy."
Students said they enjoyed the visit.
"It’s a pretty nice piece of machinery," said Matt Czeslawski, 18, a senior.
Jacob Bruns, 14, a freshman, said the helicopter was "a lot cooler than I pictured it being."
He said after seeing the craft, "the Army is definitely a choice" after a graduation.
Sheyla Diaz, 15, a freshman, agreed with Jacob in that she thought the Black Hawk was "comfy."
"I’ve never seen one up close ... and it’s really cool," she said. "... I’d like to fly one one day."