Army National Guard
Just as combat boots and helmets are essential to U.S. Army troops, so is the Blackhawk helicopter.
Josh Urban, a Kansas University Army ROTC military science instructor, knows firsthand the importance and versatility of the helicopter after serving in Iraq last year with a Topeka aviation unit. Urban said the Blackhawk serves as a primary means of transportation in Iraq to avoid dangerous ground transport.
On Thursday, Urban introduced more than 50 Kansas University Army ROTC cadets to the helicopter at the Lawrence Municipal Airport as part of a spring exercise. Members of his Topeka unit, the 1-108th AVN, conducted the exercise.
"Familiarity with the aircraft and safety components of the aircraft and unloading and loading is something the average trooper does on a regular basis in Iraq and even in the states," he said. "So it's good to train with it here before they get to their jobs."
Jace Rowe, chief warrant officer 2 of the Topeka unit, said learning about the Blackhawk and working in aviation in the Army gave cadets more options when they choose a career near graduation. When he was a cadet in the KU Army ROTC program several years ago, he said he knew he wanted to become a pilot.
"It's a lot of fun," Rowe said. "Flying a helicopter, it doesn't get much more fun than that."
Michelle Dick, a junior from Leavenworth and a medic in the Topeka Army Reserves, said she is considering becoming a Medevac pilot and was excited to ride in the Blackhawk helicopter for the first time.
"It just kind of reaffirms I want to do this," she said. "Being a medic makes you feel more connected to being a Medevac pilot and to see the rewards going into this profession."
Blackhawks weigh about 16,000 pounds. They can carry 11 troops and about 8,000 pounds of external loads. The Blackhawk is versatile because it's smaller than other aircraft such as the Chinook helicopter, and can go more places for assault or general purpose use. The helicopters have also been used to carry and drop water over forest fires.