FORT PICKETT, Va. -- A small detachment of Marines aboard four Medium Marine Helicopter Squadron 261 aircraft departed Fort Pickett, Va., and landed at two Virginia high schools for demonstrations April 24, 2007.
Ten infantrymen from Battalion Landing Team, 3rd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment; two Marines from Combat Logistics Battalion 22, and the helicopters’ pilots and crewmembers came together and spoke with students at Richmond’s Hermitage High School and Fork Union Military Academy in Fork Union.
"Since our arrival at Fort Pickett, we have been welcomed and supported superbly by the patriotic and generous Americans of the area," said Col. Douglas Stilwell, commanding officer for the 22nd MEU. "By opening up their neighborhoods, the residents of this region have offered our Marines and Sailors an extraordinary training opportunity -- training that could one day save lives. These school visits were our way of saying thanks to the local communities for their contributions to our deployment readiness."
One popular exhibit was a robot operated by the CLB-22 Marines. In the din of a teenage crowd, they showed students how they investigate Improvised Explosive Devices on the streets of foreign locales.
“We had a really great time today,” said a Marine with CLB-22. “I was actually surprised at how interested the kids were. When we broke out the robot, a crowd came and never left. It was definitely a good time.”
Masses of teachers, parents and students moved through the CH-46E Sea Knight, CH-53E Super Stallion, UH-1N Huey and AH-1W Super Cobra helicopters, marveling at the war machines of the elite fighting unit. Pilots and crew explained the aircraft’s operational quirks, and Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps cadets kept the crowds in line.
“I think it’s great that the Marines are doing this out here,” said Nathan Landry, a freshman at Hermitage High School. “It’s a great thing for the school, because it allows the ROTC people to talk to them and actually see what they do.”
Landry said he joined the school’s ROTC program to build discipline and gain respect, and he looks forward to the day he can join the Marines.
“I don’t know what I want to do in the Marine Corps, I just know that I want to be a Marine,” said Landry, a Richmond native.
Following the visit to Hermitage High School, the Super Cobra and Huey helicopters paid a visit to the men of Fork Union Military Academy. The young men filled the stadium seating and watched the aircrafts bank left and land in tandem.
Following a short introductory speech, the herd of students clothed in uniforms or matching physical training attire flooded onto the football field and surrounded the two aircraft and their crews.
“It was really awesome how they came in, and I learned a lot from the pilots,” said Robbie Aboulhosn, a junior at the academy. “The pilots were nice and very cool. One of them came up to us and started talking to us before we even had a chance to approach him.”
Aboulhosn said he was impressed with the professionalism and conduct of the Marines and they definitely left a favorable impression on him.
“I have always had a great outlook on the Marines because of their discipline,” said Aboulhosn, “that’s one thing that has always made me want to join.”
Aboulhosn, 16, is the company commander of the school’s Alpha Company and looks forward to an upcoming promotion board where he will compete in military fashion for the rank of cadet lieutenant colonel, he said.
“I plan on going to ROTC, but even if I don’t, no matter what degree I get or what job I’m offered, I plan on going into the Marines after college,” said Aboulhosn. “Especially after what has happened to this country, we need more good men with courage and discipline.”
The 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit consists of its Ground Combat Element, Battalion Landing Team, 3rd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment; Aviation Combat Element, Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 261 (Reinforced); Logistics Combat Element, Combat Logistics Battalion 22; and its Command Element.
To stay informed on the MEU’s upcoming deployment, visit the unit’s website at www.22meu.usmc.mil.