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News from 2023-2024

Posted: November 16, 2023

For Volcano Vista Students, a Rare Opportunity to Explore World of Aviation

Air Force, APD helicopters land on school’s soccer field, giving students an opportunity to experience aircraft, interact with crews.

La Licia Garcia welcomed the opportunity to see the massive Air Force helicopter at her school, despite the frigid temperature on this particular Friday morning.

“It’s kind of cool to see it up close,” she said as she marveled at the large aircraft and wondered aloud how it managed to get and stay airborne.

The Volcano Vista High School sophomore was among hundreds of students who had the opportunity to get up close and personal with the active-duty helicopter used to conduct rescue missions in warzones and a smaller, but still impressive, helicopter used by the Albuquerque Police Department to track suspects on the ground, among other things.

Although she still has more than two years of high school left, Garcia embraced the opportunity to explore career options, asking about benefits and how the airmen broke into their field.

Robert Rivera, a Volcano Vista freshman, was also captivated by the Air Force helicopter.

“It’s not something you get to see every day,” he said.

Rivera availed himself of the opportunity to learn more about the helicopter and its operation. He works on cars with his dad and is exploring career options in aircraft maintenance and technician work.

Lt. Col. Mark Morales, with the U.S. Air Force 58th Special Operations Wing based at Kirtland, said some of the students he and his teammates spoke with already know they want a military career. Joining Morales at Friday’s event were members of the crew who maintain the helicopter, those who work in intelligence, and support personnel, in addition to pilots.

“There’s a whole team,” he said.

Among the questions students asked: What is the mission? (Personnel recovery and combat search and rescue.) Do they have machine guns? (They do.) How fast does the helicopter go? (120 knots.) How many people can fit in the helicopter? (It depends – the official answer is that it carries two pilots, two special mission people, and three recovery team members.)

Morales said some of the students attending the Friday event had never met a pilot before or it was the first aircraft they saw up close, or the first Air Force crew they interacted with.

“It’s about community outreach and engagement, sharing the story of what it’s like to be an airman,” he said when asked why he and his crew visited Volcano Vista.

“Getting out and making connections is important,” he said.

The APD aircraft also drew students, including Richard Simons, a freshman interested in the medical field.

“I want to learn everything I can about helicopters,” he said, noting that all helicopters are impressive.