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Hundreds of high school and middle school students from the local area gathered along the Westbury High School football field in Long Island to witness the first aerial demonstration of Fleet Week New York this May.


Navy Band Northeast warmed up the crowd with contemporary, chart-topping music and the Blue Angels’ formation even flew over the school during their rehearsal for the weekend’s air show. Cellphones were raised in preparation as the reverberations of helicopter propellers began echoing off the school’s brick walls. The two MH-60S Seahawks from Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron 2 and one MH-53E Sea Dragon from Helicopter Mine Countermeasures Squadron 14 buzzed the tree line to scout out their landing zone.


While one Seahawk helicopter simulated providing cover support, Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) service members from Navy Expeditionary Combat Command fast-roped from the other helicopter to kick off the demonstration. After the Sea Dragon landed, the crews shut down the helicopters and prepared for tours.


The children lined the field, edging each other for prime position. When they got word from the Sailors that they could head out, the race began to check out the naval aviation equipment and talk with the Sailors who operate them.


“I can’t begin to tell you how exciting it is for the Navy to come to the great city and state of New York and bring a little of what we do to the citizens and taxpayers, but predominately to see the looks on the kids’ faces when they get a chance to see,” said Rear Adm. Jeffrey Hughes, commander of Navy Recruiting Command. “It’s really an opportunity for them to meet the Sailors and the Marines and the Coast Guardsmen who are part of the sea services that are contributing and participating in Fleet Week 2016.


Fleet Week New York is an unparalleled opportunity for the citizens of New York and the surrounding tri-state area to meet members of the sea services and witness firsthand their latest capabilities. Naval aerial demonstrations reached more than half a million people during Fleet Week.


“It’s really exciting for us to get the opportunity to talk about what we do, and answer any questions they may have,” said Hughes. “In some cases we hopefully help them on a journey to give them or provide them some opportunities that might make them live up to their fullest potential.”


Recruiters who had visited the school before mentioned how much more excited the students were with the ability to take selfies with EOD members and other Sailors in front of naval helicopters.


“The aerial demonstration was extremely well executed and definitely had a positive and intriguing effect on the kids,” said Chief Navy Counselor Daniel Butler, Marketing and Advertising Officer for Navy Recruiting District New York. “The kids all really seemed to be awestruck and very curious in the Sailors and helicopters.”


“A lot of the kids who I spoke with were shocked that the members of the team were actually in the Navy and asked how they could get their job,” said Butler.


After a few hours, the students stepped back to the edge of the fields as the naval crews started up the helicopters and prepared to head out to New Jersey to demonstrate their capabilities to another high school. The kids waved bye to the Sailors and many broke out their cellphones for a few more selfies with the departing helicopters.


“We may not see an immediate spike of enlistments the day of, but that memory of seeing a helo or Navy band will remain and will influence them later, or the way they speak about the Navy to others,” said Butler. “All in all there is nothing but positive results from these types of demonstrations.”

 



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Updated March 1, 2017 (kbh)