Cheney Free Press -


By Paul Delaney
Staff Reporter 

EWU ROTC year-end cadet training has fun finish

Cadets fly in Blackhawk helicopter to exercise at Camp Seven-Mile


Josette Rader

Eastern Washington University ROTC cadets disembark from a Blackhawk helicopter onto the gournd at Camp Seven-Mile near the Spokane River as part of exercises last Friday.

Members of Eastern Washington University's ROTC program got to go on a field trip last Friday.

And it included the Army's version of an amusement park thrill ride on board a Blackhawk helicopter that took them to their FTX, the year-end field training exercise.

"It's kind of our culminating training event for these cadets," department chair, Lt. Col. Jason Pape explained. Many of them now head out to summer camps, schools and training of all kinds across the country until they return for fall quarter.

Members of the Washington Air National Guard that fly out of Fairchild Air Force Base provided the sleek Blackhawk helicopters that picked up cadets from the new parking lot north of Roos Field and delivered them less than 10 minutes later to Camp Seven-Mile near Riverside State Park.

"Some of them are first-year cadets who only see things like this on television and it gives them a chance to do it," Pape said. Part of the two-day training was using real weapons, but blank ammunition, he explained. A series of distant pops could be heard later in the night from across the river.

But the real fun came in the ride on the workhorse Sikorsky UH-60, capable of carrying 11 personnel. The Blackhawk chopper that was part of the training is unmistakeable as it approaches the landing zone and can be heard for miles. The one ferrying the ROTC students wove its way down the Spokane River, carefully maneuvering below the giant basalt cliffs to the west and over the pine forest before setting down on a high, open bench.

The wind created - the rotor wash, as Pape called it - was enough to knock a person off their feet from nearly 100 feet away.

Fourth year cadets like Chelsea Wilhelm were fortunate to have the opportunity to take part in the exercise. "We haven't been able to do it so far," she said. "We tried last year and it ended up not working out." Wilhelm was awaiting the arrival of the last Blackhawk taking the final group of cadets from Cheney.

Koby Binks from the Aberdeen, Wash. area described the experience as, "Kind of like a roller coaster but a better view." Everyone is harnessed into their seat, but the door's are wide open and the ride took Binks over parts of Spokane he'd never seen before.

John Meier claims he's from "all over" and grew up being an Army brat. True to that claim he was born at Ft. Lewis in Madigan Hospital.

The best part of the trip for Meier, "Definitely the taking off," he said. "They always do a sharp turn out of the pick up site."

But the landing had its notable moments, too, because of the terrain that makes the pilots shoot up in the air just before touchdown.

"There's a point where there's zero gravity in the bird, everyone's stomach kinds of flips a little and then we come back down, kind of like a roller coaster," Meier explained.

The view is also pretty fine. "It looks just as beautiful from the air as the ground," Meier said.

First-year cadet Philip Mason, a graduate of East Valley High School in Spokane, said taking off was the most memorable part of the ride.

But not everyone was relishing the adventure.

Cadet Josette Rader, the groups' public information officer, seemed adamant about not flying. "I have to take pictures," and was concerned about who would be the photographer if she left.

Paul Delaney can be reached at


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