U.S. Army Chief Warrant Officer 2 Sean Quillin carefully navigated his UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter above a crowd of wind-swept high school kids. Below him was the wide open gridiron of Emerald Ridge High School's football field.
The students belong to the school's aviation program and Emerald Ridge, located in Puyallup, Washington, is one of the few high schools within the state that has an aviation program for their students. Students who have a strong interest in being pilots have the opportunity to learn some of the many aspects of aviation like aerodynamics and the physics of flight.
Emerald Ridge partnered with the local National Guard helicopter unit to bring a helicopter to their school to give their students the chance to talk to real pilots and sit in real helicopters.
December 13, 2016 - Specialist Melissa Marsolek, 1st Lt. Scott Darragh, Specialist Keely Killebrew, and Chief Warrant Officer 2 Sean Quillin, all from Charlie Company, 1st Battalion, 140th Aviation Regiment, with Jeff Coleman (center), aviation instructor at Emerald Ridge High School, Puyallup, Washington in front of their UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter. The visit to the high school was part of a partnership with the school's aviation program which gives aspiring pilots the chance to talk to real pilots and sit in real helicopters. (Courtesy photo by Jennifer Picardo)
As the helicopter gracefully touched down on the field, Quillin from Charlie Company, 1st Battalion (Assault), 140th Aviation Regiment, couldn't help but flashback to the time when he was a young student down on that very same field and watched a helicopter land in front of him. Only the helicopter wasn't a Black Hawk, it was a CH-47 Chinook.
“When you're a 16- to 17-year-old kid it was the coolest thing ever to see a Chinook, one of the largest helicopters in the Army inventory, land on your football field,” Quillin said. “You feel the hurricane winds and … it almost didn't even seem real back then, it was one of the coolest things to witness.”
Quillin himself was a young aspiring pilot when he attended Emerald Ridge and was taking those same aviation classes, preparing himself for life as a pilot.
But Quillin's career as a helicopter pilot almost didn't happen. He was actually in talks with his local Air Force recruiter to become a fighter pilot.
Quillin said that he thought that flying a Chinook was just as cool as fighter jets so he jumped at the chance to fly helicopters.
December 13, 2016 - Chief Warrant Officer 2 Sean Quillin carefully navigated his UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter above a crowd of wind-swept high school kids. Below him was the wide open gridiron of Emerald Ridge High School's football field. (Courtesy photo by Jennifer Picardo)
“Once the helicopter landed out at the school I saw a different route,” Quillin said.
Quillin maintained contact with the pilots he saw that day and eventually joined the Washington National Guard as a helicopter mechanic. Later, he’d go on to flight school.
In fact, the same pilot who flew the Chinook to his school was the same person that helped get Quillin off to Warrant Officer School. Now, Quillin works with him daily.
After he went to flight school and followed his path to become a pilot, he'd often thought about flying back to that high school to promote that same kind of experience.
Quillin kept in contact with the teachers in his aviation class over the years and finally got the opportunity to pilot his Black Hawk to Emerald Ridge. And now, as Quillin proudly shows off his Black Hawk, he hopes that his visit here will spark that love for aviation in a new generation of National Guard pilots.
“That they would get the same kind of motivation for an aviation career is, honestly, all I want out of [this assignment],” he said.
By U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class Jason Kriess
Provided through DVIDS
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