East Texas Gets Up Close And Personal With Some Heavy Military Equipment

One by one they dropped into the landing zone--a private field just south of Jacksonville.  The mission:  hit the ground quick and secure the surroundings.  It was simple enough for nearly 100 soldiers training this morning in Cherokee County, but for the civilians who lined up to catch the training mission in action, it was a sight to see.

"I was in the infantry, so we walked and crawled everywhere we went.  We didn't have this kind of stuff," said Benny Walker, a WWII veteran.

Some call it the right stuff; the troops were up from Fort Hood, flown in on six Black Hawk Helicopters.  They were getting the training they need before heading to the front lines.  Within minutes of landing, they were back in air, heading into the horizon.

"Most of my soldiers I took out with me this time are brand new soldiers," said U.S. Army Sgt. Randall Harrell.  He said for some of the men he worked with Wednesday morning, it was a good learning experience.

Back on the ground at Cherokee County Airport, it was time to get up close and personal with the war machines.  It's in the cockpit where pilots said you get the best feel for the Black Hawk. Fully loaded, it weighs 22,000 pounds, and it's more than 54 feet long.  They called it the Cadillac of helicopters.

"It's like a roller coaster, but more aggressive," said U.S. Army Chief Warrant Officer Joseph O'Rourke.  As a pilot, he said he has complete control, whether he wants to go up, down, left or right.  "I want to go over here, I want to go over there, I want to jump in that valley, or come over that hill top, you just do it."

It was an everyday thing for the soldiers--soldiers who are more than willing to serve.  "I do what I do, so that my children and my children's children hopefully won't have to do this--so that people in America can continue to be free," said Army Sgt. Daniel Fedor.

They received a hero's welcome before it was up and away again to serve their country.

Layron Livingston, Reporting.  llivingston@kltv.com