Eyes transfixed, mouth open and arms held high, 6-year-old Kian Nelson stared in awe as the Chinook helicopter’s blades sent leaves and artificial turf pellets soaring through the air.
When the wheels touched down and the cadets stepped off single-file, he stuck out his right hand to greet them. One by one, they gave it a light slap as they made their way into the small crowd. “Cool,” he said.
On Sunday afternoon, a crowd of a few dozen gathered at Gonzaga University’s Luger Field to welcome cadets with Gonzaga and Whitworth universities’ ROTC programs, who had just finished a weekend at Camp Seven Mile for their spring semester field training exercise.
Usually, they go to and from camp on the ground, with four wheels touching earth.
But not this weekend. With help from the Washington Army National Guard, these cadets were flown via a Boeing CH-47 Chinook twin-engine helicopter – a first for students in the program’s history.
“It was pretty cool,” said 21-year-old Cadet Sean Gallagher, a senior at Gonzaga who was a battalion commander last semester during training. “The ramp door doesn’t close completely, so we had a good view of Spokane.”
Every fall and spring, ROTC students spend a weekend of training at locations in the Spokane area. In the summer, they go to Fort Knox in Kentucky.
The 70 or so students were transported to and from the camp in two separate trips. The route from Camp Seven Mile, east of Riverside State Park, snaked along the Spokane River before touching down in the field.
“It was fun,” Gallagher said. “I really enjoyed it.”
After the helicopter departed for the second time, and the sound level resumed to normal, Nelson was hoisted onto his mother’s shoulders. There, he ruminated on what he’d witnessed.
“Windy,” he concluded.
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