LUBBOCK, Texas — Friday morning, you might have seen three Black Hawk helicopters flying in formation over Lubbock. No, they’re not on a top secret military operation — they’re actually on a special mission to give cadets with Texas Tech’s ROTC some real-time Army experience.
“When people see them, you’re like, ‘Oh no what’s going on?'” joked Joshua Wilbanks, Public Affairs Officer for the Red Raider Army ROTC.
“You see them in the movies, and you wonder what it’s really like,” said Noah Barrera, Staff Sergeant and Squad Leader for the Red Raider Army ROTC.
The three helicopters flew in from Fort Bliss Thursday and will stay in West Texas until Sunday. Friday morning, they descended in a cloud of dust in a field near the Lubbock Preston Smith International Airport and were greeted by 60 to 70 eager Army ROTC cadets.
While their fellow Red Raiders were stuck in class, these cadets took to the sky.
“I literally just took a midterm an hour ago, and now I’m here, and we’re going to be flying out,” said Cameron Parr, Battalion Commander for the Red Raider Army ROTC.
The cadets got an up-close look and a ride in the choppers — something they’d been looking forward to for months.
They took off in the choppers to Post for the weekend for field training, including things like first aid, shooting, navigation and tactical operations.
“This training is essential for us as incoming military officers … We’re expected right out of graduation to go in and lead a small set of soldiers ourselves,” Wilbanks said.
These are lessons that may prove critical when they head into combat.
“Being able to have this hands-on training is really important so that when we go in, we’re not going in completely blind,” Barrera said.
That’s a thought echoed by First Lieutenant Christian Condez, a Tech alum from Lubbock.
“When it comes to flying in a life-or-death situation, you fall back on what you have ingrained as muscle memory … That ultimately comes down to how well you trained,” said Condez, a platoon leader and pilot.
He flew one of the Black Hawks into Lubbock Friday. Now, he’s proud to pass the torch on to the next generation.
“Flying over Lubbock was a once-in-a-lifetime experience for me. I’ll never forget it,” Condez said.
On Sunday, the Black Hawks will head back to Fort Bliss, and the cadets will come back to Lubbock.