Big bird up close

By By Bill Rautenstrauch The Observer August 07, 2012 01:10 pm

Local Boy, Girl and Cub Scouts learned some lessons about military-style flight Saturday, as a CH 47 Chinook helicopter touched down at the Union County Airport and opened its doors for a tour.

Boy Scouts from Troop 514, Cub Scouts from Pack 515 and area Girl Scouts were shown a huge, twin-engine machine that’s used mainly for troop movements, artillery emplacement and battlefield re-supply. Staff Sgt. Robert Dowell, a member of Pendleton’s B Company, 168th Aviation, led the talk and answered a barrage of questions from the Scouts.

Dowell, a flight engineer, said the CH 47 is a durable and highly dependable aircraft that’s been used by the Army and National Guard since before the Vietnam War. Not long ago, Dowell’s unit flew missions on Chinooks in Afghanistan.

One Scout wanted to know if the helicopter is used to fight enemies. Dowell replied that that’s not the Chinook’s primary role.

“We don’t like to be around enemies because when we land we’re so slow,” he said. 

But he added that when it’s cruising, the Chinook is one of the fastest choppers in the sky.

“On the plus side, this is the fastest helicopter in the army. It can go 170 knots. You don’t want to stick your hands out the window when you’re going that fast,” he said.

Dowell, of La Grande, and his wife Kimberly are parents of a Scout and helped make Saturday’s event possible. Dowell said he saw it as a chance to teach kids about the Guard’s war and peacetime missions.

“We’re here for a static display, so the kids can come out and see what the Oregon Guard does for the community,” he said. 

Kimberly Dowell said said the tour will help Scouts meet requirements for advancement.

“In the Cub Scout Bear handbook there’s a requirement that asks to tell the differences between a helicopter and an airplane,” she said.

The kids on hand were enthusiastic, with many saying the helicopter was “awesome.” 

“I’d say I liked the whole trip,” said Cyrus Totten, an eight-year-old who goes to Greenwood Elementary.

Hunter Adams, also eight years old, said he was impressed as he looked through the open cargo hatch in the floor of the aircraft.

“I liked it when they showed how they drop things through,” he said.

For lunch, the chopper’s crew treated the Scouts to Meals-Ready-to-Eat, better known as MREs. When the helicopter tour was over, the group moved on for a look at the Third Battalion, 116th Cavalry’s maintenance facilities adjacent to the airport.