JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska (6/21/2012) — After a
quick meal at the Warrior's Inn Dining Facility the schedule was
going to include riding in a Black Hawk helicopter, firing simulated
weapons at a high-tech shooting range, simulated convoy training
with cutting-edge motion- and sensory-simulation technology,
airborne sustainment training, jumping from a 34-foot tower and a
private meeting with the commanding general of U.S. Army Alaska.
March 5, 2012 - Capt. Brett Haker, of the Alaska Army National
Guard's 1st Battalion, 207th Aviation Regiment, explains some of the
controls in the cockpit of a UH-60 Blackhawk helicopter as Nathan
Rothe, center, and Collin Prokasy try on aviation helmets and listen
to the aircraft's communication system. Photo by USAF Staff Sgt.
While this could plausibly pass for the daily routine of USARAK
Arctic Warrior, it was the chain of events planned for Nathan Rothe,
a 9-year-old boy with muscular dystrophy from Dallas, Texas,
visiting Alaska to experience a full-blown arctic winter with his
family with the help of the Make-A-Wish Foundation.
addition to his mother and father, Nathan was also joined by Collin
Prokasy, his hometown friend, who was allowed to accompany him under
the rules of the Make-A-Wish Foundation, because Nathan is an only
While Nathan's wish wasn't to become a soldier for a
day, his family's military past led them to an invitation to spend
the day visiting Army units during their stay in Alaska, according
to Mary Rall, U.S. Army Alaska Community Relations Chief.
“The soldiers participating in the event seemed to have gotten as
much out of the experience as the Rothe family,” Rall said. “I
genuinely think it was something everybody involved felt privileged
to be a part of.”
After some minor schedule shuffling, the Rothe family and
Make-A-Wish were able to dedicate some time between
attending the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race and visiting the
Anchorage Zoo to visit the installation.
across the Army side of JBER opened their doors to welcome
the Rothe family to show
them what it's like to be a soldier.
started with lunch at an on-post dining facility to eat what
soldiers eat, where soldiers eat.
“This is a lot
cooler than our school cafeteria,” Collin said, as he
watched the soldiers eating at their tables.
we don't have moose heads on our walls,” Nathan agreed.
After a healthy lunch they were escorted to Bryant Army
Air Field where Capt. Brett Haker, maintenance officer for
the 1st Battalion, 207th Aviation Regiment of the Alaska
Army National Guard, brought the family into a hangar filled
with UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters and whispered something
into the boy's ears.
The two boys then shouted “Fall
in!” and the National Guard soldiers all responded by
getting into a crisp formation before the smiling boys.
Haker presented the boys with honorary certificates and
wings and donated, kid-sized Army aviator hats and jackets
complete with unit patches and name tapes.
special guests also had a chance to sit in the cockpit of a
Black Hawk and try out the aircraft's communications system.
At the end of the hangar tour, the family met with
The Adjutant General of the Alaska National Guard, Maj. Gen.
At the Battle Command Training Center
the boys tried their hands at the engagement skills trainer,
a complex system of integrated lasers and projected images
on a screen attached to air compressors and inert M4 and M16
After some instruction on the system, the
boys had a chance to shoot at digital turkeys scurrying
across a projected background.
“Oh, they love this,”
Jessica Rothe, Nathan's mother, said. “They're both carrying
on like it's a big video game.”
After a few rounds of
the digital turkey shoot the visitors experienced another
simulated training event with the reconfigurable vehicle
tactical trainer, a large stationary simulation of a
military style Humvee surrounded by digital projected
landscape which reacts to the crew's actions.
system replicates the feel of actually driving a military
convoy through hostile terrain.
The family laughed
and watched as the boys excitedly took turns driving and
operating the simulated 240-Bravo machine gun mounted on the
turret of the vehicle and maneuvered the harsh terrain and
navigated narrow alleys looking for their digital enemy.
“This is so cool!” Collin said, as he drove the vehicle.
“This thing is really loud!” Nathan said, as he pulled
the trigger of the machine gun and it recoiled with
compressed air just like a real weapon.
Airborne Sustainment Training Area paratroopers from the 4th
Brigade (Airborne), 25th Infantry Division Rear Detachment
showed the family what goes into airborne operations.
Maj. Daniel Enslen, rear detachment commander, greeted
them and introduced them to his demonstrators who showed
them the workings of a T-10 Delta parachute and reserve.
They rigged up a demonstrator and yanked the parachute
out to show how it functioned before taking a knee and
showing how the reserve parachute can rapidly deploy it in
the event of an emergency.
The entire family had the
opportunity, if they so chose, to jump from the 34-foot
tower, a military paratrooper training apparatus used to
refine the skill of a novice jumper and help new
paratroopers overcome their initial fear of heights.
Collin and Ted Rothe, Nathan's father, opted to rig into
the harnesses and exit the tower as their friends and family
cheered them on.
“I'm not going to do that, that's
crazy!” Nathan said.
There was one last event
awaiting the Rothe family as they departed the ASTA.
The guests dropped by USARAK headquarters to meet USARAK
Commanding General Maj. Gen. Raymond Palumbo, who warmly
greeted them and had some special gifts for the boys before
Palumbo presented the boys with a gift bag
filled with items emblazoned with the USARAK logo and helped
them don black and gold football-style jerseys wearing the
number 49 for the 49th state of Alaska as he talked sports
with them and showed them some of the donated hockey jerseys
that had been given to USARAK over the years.
family filed out of the commander's office to continue their
Alaska visit, Nathan seemed to have one question lingering
on his mind.
“You guys have football up here?” Nathan
“We have all kinds of sports up here,” Palumbo
answered, getting chuckles from Nathan's mother and father.
By USAF Staff Sgt. Matthew Winstead
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