The Maine Army National Guard (MEARNG) Recruiting and Retention Battalion hosted two civic leader flights this fall. During these events, community leaders learn about the National Guard and ride on a UH-60 Blackhawk helicopter over the local area.
“These are great events, not only for the scenic flights over our hometowns but it is also great for collaboration – educators learning about the National Guard and also meeting other community leaders and finding ways we can help each other,” said Capt. Adam Davis, an operations officer for Recruiting and Retention Battalion.
Teachers, administrators, school resource officers and local government officials are just a few of the groups that can participate in these activities.
The first civic leader flights occurred in Bangor on October 15 with a second date in Augusta on October 22. A third date was scheduled for the Portland area this week but the event had to be postponed. Guard officials are hopeful the third flight can be rescheduled for some time in the spring, so long as it can be accomplished with the appropriate health precautions.
The flights are coordinated through the Recruiting and Retention Battalion and involve the same aviation crews who have recently been utilized by the state of Maine to respond to medical emergencies on Mount Katahdin.
“Any time the flight crews can get real clients, and share our capabilities and what we are passionate about is a win-win,” said Lt. Col. Nathan Arnold, commander of the 521st Troop Command. “It’s a good opportunity to share what we do and make hard things look easy.”
One of those educators in attendance at the Bangor flight was Kate Meyer, an English teacher at Mount Desert High School, and the 2020 Hancock County Teacher of the Year.
“I come from a military family so any chance that I get to learn more about the military, especially in our State and to bring that back to my students, I jump at. This was one of those opportunities,” Meyer said. “When Sgt. Blake reached out and asked if I wanted to do it, I said ‘absolutely.'”
Sgt. Ethan Blake graduated from Mount Desert High School and now serves as the recruiter for that community.
“I’ve been assigned to the school for less than a year and with COVID, we haven’t worked as much together, but I had her for a teacher back in the day, so I’ve known Ms. Meyer for years,” Blake said. “And when I was assigned this school, it seemed like a perfect fit!”
Donning masks, Blake and Meyer sat in the cockpit of a UH-60 helicopter taking note of the large number of switches and gauges, taking a moment to catch up with each other.
“I love to see my former students and their careers,” Meyer said. “It’s great for us to see, and so this is a very good opportunity.”
Meyer was excited, not only at the opportunity at seeing one of her former students, or flying in a helicopter, but also learning more about the Guard and bringing that knowledge back to her students.
“I’m taking away more of an understanding about how the Army National Guard supports our state and our local communities, and that makes me really excited to take that back to my students, because our students are really community-oriented.”
Mayor Jason Levesque of Auburn expressed a similar sentiment. He participated in the October 22 Augusta flight.
“It’s really good to see, it’s such an asset that Maine has and our individual communities,” Levesque said. “It’s good as mayor knowing we have members of the Maine National Guard members in our city, in our community, and what we find is that those individuals are so much more engaged in what goes on in schools and government – and it’s a really great 360 view of citizenship.”
Levesque is an Army veteran who served in both the active and reserve components, working with the National Guard in various capacities during that time. His service as mayor now gives him an additional perspective on the National Guard.
“I hope people realize what a vital asset the Maine National Guard is to the state as far as their local communities,” he said, “And for young people and teenagers, to people in their 20’s and 30’s thinking about a second career, primary career, or career switch, just the training opportunities and the comaraderie they can find in the Maine National Guard, right here in their home state and in their home community.”
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