Several D'Iberville High School students buckled into a blackhawk helicopter and imagined what it would be like flying over Iraq. Derek Hennig didn't have to imagine. The 1108th AVCRAD member spent half a rotation in the war zone.
"I just tell them that we are making a difference over there," he said, referring to his recruiting talks with high school students.
Hennig always urges students to follow his career path.
Michelle Barnhouse became one of his targets.
"My whole family is in it," the 16 year old said. "My dad Navy, my stepdad Air Force, my brother Marines."
And soon, Barnhouse expects to join the National Guard.
"I was going to join the military anyway. And the sooner, the better," she said.
Once a year, the National Guard brings its military firepower to D'Iberville. Some students sit in a helicopter. Others take a spin in the turret of a Bradley tank. That experience is fun. But when the talk turns to riding one of these vehicles in Iraq, things get very serious.
That's why the military equipment was in the school's parking lot -- to convince a few D'Iberville students that now is the right time to join the National Guard.
Tracy Jones is the chief recruiter.
"What I tell the kids is there is no better feeling in the world than liberating another man to have the same rights we have here in the United States," he said.
Because of the Iraqi upheaval, Jones said getting teens to jump into the Guard hasn't been easy. But recruiters aren't giving up.
Last year, three D'Iberville students finished high school, and immediately joined the National Guard. They got to take advantage of the nearly $66,000 worth of education incentives the guard offers its recruits.
For information, call the Mississippi Amry National Guard office in Gulfport at 896-6303.