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Lexington High School students see Army helicopter fly-in and interesting aviation displays to benef

Lexington, SC (Paul Kirby) – Students from Lexington High School had a great opportunity Thursday to expand their knowledge of science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) from some US Army soldiers and pilots as well as a group of dedicated volunteers from the Celebrate Freedom Foundation (CFF). They did this by getting an up-close look at an amazing helicopter, some state-of-the-art drones, and other exciting, hands- on displays.

The experience Thursday was sponsored for the students by School District One's STEM program. STEM is an acronym for the fields of science, technology, engineering and math. STEM-related programs have become a priority because educators and business leaders across the US have realized that too few college students were pursuing degrees in these fields, yet the need for employees with this type of training was expanding.

In Lexington, as is the case in other areas, the Army partners with the CFF to expose and excite the students about opportunity to explore those STEM fields through CFF’s Project SOaR™ (Student/School Opportunities and Recruitment). This program helps the army reach high school students through STEM programs. It informs students of the opportunities that are available to them, particularly in the field of aviation.

Thursday at LHS, two experienced pilots from the army landed a AH-1 Cobra Attack Helicopter on the track area at the school. This is a helicopter that was first developed in the 1960’s for use in Vietnam, but was updated continuously and used by the army in active service until 1999. That aircraft that participated in the fly-in at LHS is affectionately named “Maggie." A second helicopter of the same model was also there on a trailer for demonstration and display named “Lena.”

Maggie has been lovingly restored with a Vietnam era “Tiger Stripe” paint job and is still loaded with some deadly technology. That includes a 20 mm Gatling gun, TOW missiles, point and shoot rocket pods, and other high tech designators and gadgetry. There are two seats, one elevated behind the other and a powerful turbine engine to make her fly. She is maintained and flown out of the Doolittle Flight Center building at Columbia Metro. Her pilots are stationed at Shaw Air Force base in Sumter.

In addition to the choppers, there were displays that featured three modern rotors lifted drones and a display of tools and computer cut maintenance aircraft tools as well. All of these displays were manned by the CFF volunteers, many of whom themselves were military aviators, engineers, or aircraft technicians.

Before the event at the school, Lt. Col. Robert Garbarino, Commander of the Columbia Army Recruiting Battalion said, “Our goal is to stimulate or reinforce student interest in STEM courses by bringing these assets to the school. Students and educators will see that the army has a variety of technical jobs in aviation and those that support aviation.”

Each of the students who participated Thursday were shown specific reasons why they should stay in school and concentrate on STEM courses. They also learned the importance of college and value of other educational opportunities, such as technical schools and those provided by the U.S. Military.

In a statement released prior to the event, Dr. Russell David, CFF’s Aviation/Aerospace Education Directorsaid, “STEM subjects are not just important, they are essential to the success of millions of children who hope for a profitable future.” He went on to point out that we’re living in the age of technology, and today’s students have a tremendous opportunity to excel if they pursue an education in STEM related fields.

L.A. Sully, our area’s Chief Advertising and Public Affairs Officer said Thursday that the Army and CFF were excited to break the ice with this program in Lexington. She said that in many cases they have to approach schools about this innovative and exciting way to learn. “We would love to get to the point where schools are contacting us about hosting the program at other places around the county, the state, and the region.”

If you would like to explore having this program come to your school, you can contact Mrs. Sully at (803) 751-0950. You can also reach her by e-mail at To learn more about an exciting career in the US Army go to

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