COAL CITY — Coal City students had a chance to take an up-close, inside look at an Army Chinook helicopter and humvees Wednesday at Coal City Middle School.
The vehicles were brought by members of the Illinois National Guard stationed in Marseilles as part of an annual visit to the district. Students in grades 2 through 12 came to the open, grassy area on the middle school's north side to check out the military vehicles and interact with National Guard personnel.
Staff Sgt. Tom Rubin, a recruiter for the Illinois National Guard, said the event is a chance for guardsmen to show off equipment and talk about their jobs and mission.
"This is pretty much public awareness about the Illinois National Guard," he said, as well as some recruiting for older students.
Each age group was staggered throughout the morning and early afternoon. As students arrived at the middle school, they organized around the three vehicles, climbing into the humvees and walking up a ramp into the helicopter.
Guardsmen pointed out features of the vehicles, showed a few replicas of weapons, and talked about their jobs.
Coal City High School Principal Mitch Hamann said the visit is one that students look forward to, both being able to see the equipment and hear about the Illinois National Guard.
"Until you sit inside of a helicopter, they don't really understand the conditions (troops work in)," he said. "I think they grow to appreciate them more than they already do."
Late in the morning, juniors and seniors from Coal City High School could be found at the middle school. Jeremiah Abbott, a junior at CCHS, said he was interested in the vehicles on display.
"I think it was pretty cool," he said. "I saw them flying the helicopter over (earlier)."
Abbott, who is also considering joining the Air Force or Coast Guard after graduating, said it was a good chance for him to hear more about how military service can change a person's life, and ask some questions.
"I just liked how they answered all our questions," he said.
Senior Shondalle Washington said it was a chance to learn more about the National Guard.
"I think it was really informative and it really showed us a lot of what they do," he said.
Washington's classmate Carlos Shoemaker agreed, and added he enjoys the organization's visits each year.
"I don't plan on going into the service, but it's good to learn about it," he said.