Attending orientation is a quintessential part of any first-year student’s college experience. However, for the students who chose to join the University’s Army ROTC program, their introduction to campus literally went above and beyond the rest.
Thursday afternoon, seven waves of ROTC cadets from the Wolverine Battalion took turns boarding a Blackhawk UH-60M helicopter for rides above the Big House, and other major campus landmarks. The helicopter was stationed at the Ann Arbor Municipal Airport, and piloted by members of the 3-238 General Support Aviation Battalion based in Grand Ledge, including First Lt. Kelly Carbary, an alumni of the University’s ROTC program.
When addressing her passengers, Carbary, who recently worked with the Marines on a training mission, shared stories about her career with the National Guard and stressed that being a pilot requires versatility.
“It’s not just in-house, we are focusing on aviation, we work a lot with the ground-pounders, it’s really awesome, it’s really rewarding,” Carbary said.
Lt. Colonel Allana J. Bryant, a professor of military science, said the program was excited for the helicopter experience, adding that it was something she had never witnessed during her time at the University.
Bryant said it took some time to coordinate the helicopter ride because the helicopter unit has many responsibilities.
“They just weren’t sure they were going to be able to support it because the unit is deployed. So they didn’t know if they would have the extra fuel and time and resources to come and be able to do this for our cadets,” Bryant said.
Bryant said the helicopter exercise was not only a beneficial experience for the new ROTC members, but also a helpful training mission for the seasoned helicopter unit.
“It just sort of helps both units and it builds a little bit of rapport working together,” Bryant said. “Because anytime you deploy, or anytime you do anything, you’re going to be working with other units, so it sort of gives you that feel.”
Bryant added that the ride was an especially exciting part of the orientation for the many new freshmen that had the opportunity to ride in a helicopter on their very first day in the program.
“This is one of the reasons why people join the Army, it’s to do the cool stuff, it’s not to do paperwork,” Bryant said.
Major Alex Garn, battalion executive officer for the Wolverine Battalion, worked with Carbary to organize the event. While serving in Iraq, he said he often had to go on night missions which required him to ride in helicopters.
Garn said it was important that the new cadets got a taste of what they could to in the Army.
“A lot of our new incoming cadets that have no experience with the Army, or who have no idea what it’s about,” Garn said. “I just wanted to give them a taste of what they could be potentially be doing as a career in the army.”
Garn added that Carbury’s relationship with the Wolverine Battalion helped bring them together.
“Because Carbary is a (University) grad, and alumni from our program, she was very excited to do this, as well as we, and that made it go a lot easier,” Garm said.
Garn noted that some students might choose to go into the aviation branch, and said that today’s ride may help inspire their decision.
“Aviation is only one of many branches that they could choose post-graduation,” Garn said. “Flying is always fun and exciting, there’s always some level of danger involved with it, and getting that exposure and experience now while they’re young will only make them more successful in the future.”
Despite the cost of renting the Blackhawks, Garn said it was a worthwhile investment for teaching valuable lessons to the ROTC students, especially since none of cadets he talked to had ever been on a Blackhawk before.
“There is a lot time, money, resources, and fuel that goes into this, so we always have to make sure we are using our budget correctly and making good use of funds, and I think we are today,” Garn said. It’s definitely worth it because we’re getting not only cadets, but our cadre, and also some folks from the Ann Arbor community along with us, so they’re getting exposed to it.”
LSA freshman Andrew Miller said he has never been in the air before, and has a fear of heights.
However, he was excited for the experience and thought it was a great idea because he’s a “hands on learner.”