A teacher from West McDowell Middle School got the experience of a lifetime when she visited Shaw Airforce Base in Columbia, S.C. She was invited by the Aerospace American Institute of Aeronautics & Astronautics.
Susan Higdon is a sixth grade science teacher at West. She serves as on the Aerospace Advisory Board for the next years through the National Science Teachers Association. With the support of her teachers and principals, she promotes aerospace programs in her classroom.
During her visit, her and seven other people met with Major Brian Raffa the Air Force base and toured the facility, met pilots of F-16’s and got to sit in one of the fighter jets. She also sat in on a meeting about ballistic missile defense and military air power. Shaw Airforce Base is the largest base in the world and houses at least 79 jets at a time, Higdon said.
“I got to look in the cockpit of the F-16 and a soldier told us of how many pounds of missiles it could handle and the number of rounds that could be shot by the gunner. He told us that the missiles were not heat activated, but by the pilots head in his helmet turning to a certain position,” Higdon said. “The day I was there I saw F-22's and carrier jets, too. The jets take off in pairs.”
She said at many points they were not allowed to take pictures, have her cellphone or write anything down.
“It was amazing what we as Americans take for granted. We are so fortunate many people like those in the Fighting 55th division are willing to keep us safe and to help protect our nation,” said Higdon. “I have always had the utmost respect for the military. Now it is a whole another level for those that are willing to drop everything, leave to go defend and even die for us.”