UNION COUNTY — A group that promotes education and honoring the military brought a helicopter gunship to Union County High School Friday morning as part of a program to encourage students to stay in school and consider careers in the aviation and aerospace industries.
The Celebrate Freedom Foundation is a nonprofit educational and historical corporation based in Columbia and dedicated to education, promoting patriotism, and honoring the military. The foundation’s educational outreach program emphasizes STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) subjects in elementary, middle, and high school.
Foundation members brought the educational outreach program along with “Annie” to UCHS Friday morning.
Annie is a restored AH-1 Cobra Attack Helicopter which is part of the foundation’s mobile educational display unit. The helicopter, which is painted black and sports both its name and the image of a cobra about to strike, does not fly but is displayed at foundation educational events.
One of those events took place Friday morning in the bus parking lot behind UCHS where foundation personnel spoke to students, first, about the helicopter, and then on the importance of education and the career opportunities in South Carolina’s growing aviation and aerospace industries.
“We talk about little bit about the helicopter,” retired U.S. Army Lt. Col. Jim Filiatreault said. “This Bell Cobra was built in 1967. It flew in Vietnam, Bosnia, and Grenada.”
Filiatreault added that while Annie did not fly there, some Cobras flew in the Gulf War.
While the various aspects of the helicopter including its armament and engine were discussed, educational and career opportunities linked to aviation and aerospace was the main thrust of Friday’s presenations.
“We’re talking about STEM subjects, about what it takes to keep one of these flying, and what kinds of aviation careers we have here in South Carolina,” Filiatreault said. “General Dynamics in the Upstate builds jet fighters. There are engine manufacturers in the Upstate like GE and Westinghouse. In Charleston there’s Boeing.”
Filiatreault pointed out that for those students who are not interested in going to college but like working with their hands, a career in the aviation and aerospace industries could be just what they’re looking for. He added that there is an educational institution in South Carolina that could quickly prepare them to find work in those industries anywhere in the country.
“A lot of these kids are not going to college and they really like hands on stuff,” Filiatreault said. “In Myrtle Beach there’s the Pittsburg Institute of Aviation where in 18 months you can get your air frame and power plant license. With those in hand you can get a job anywhere in the U.S.”
UCHS Principal Floyd Lyles said the visit by the foundation was a great educational opportunity, adding that the chance to actually see a military helicopter up close brought an enthusistic response, not only from students but also teachers.
“It created a great opportunity for our school and our students to have someone here who is a pilot and has been through that type of training,” Lyles said. “I had several teachers and students who said “I have got to go out there. I have always read about war the equipment they used.’ So I had some teachers who were more excited than the students.”
Lyles said that having the $10 million aircraft at the school was a great experience for students, especially those in the mechatronics and engineering classes who are studying robotics.
“This was a real world experience that I think the students will never forget,” Lyles said.
For more information about the Celebrate Freedom Foundation go online at www.CelebrateFreedomFoundation.org.
Charles Warner can be reached at 864-427-1234, Ext. 14.