High School students from throughout Georgetown County were given a glimpse of America’s military capabilities--and possibly a glimpse of their own. Waccamaw Region’s Military Expo 2020 was in full force on the Bulldog campus on Friday, March 6 from 8 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. with uniformed representatives from all branches of service and law enforcement ready to kindle interest and answer questions from the young men and women who will someday fill their boots.
Georgetown High School welcomed the collaborative efforts of the Georgetown County Sheriff’s Department, the US Air Force, the US Army, the US Coast Guard, the US Marines, the US National Guard, the US Navy, the Georgetown Police Department and the Celebrate Freedom Foundation who were sponsored by Waccamaw Regional Career Specialist Jason Coakley.
The outdoor display featured military vehicles such as the foundation’s travelling AH-1 single-blade helicopter named “Lena,” the Army National Guard’s LMTV (Light Mountainous Terrain Vehicle), a USCG rescue boat and Georgetown County’s own “SWATmobile” as well as team-supported booths that promoted service in both military and civilian capacities.
Lori Wicker, Director of STEM Education and JROTC Programs for the Celebrate Freedom Foundation from West Columbia, South Carolina, shared the objective of their mission. “Our goal is to enhance what the teachers are teaching these students--that they have a purpose and there is a reason. For everything they wish and love, there is a job out there for them. There’s science, technology, engineering and mathematics and this is our way of opening up their eyes to saying ‘I can do the dream I want to do.’ Celebrate freedom is a nonprofit organization that is funded by local sponsors that has our veteran who have served our military, who are now giving back to our future,” said Wicker.
Wicker was surrounded by cheers emanating from the crowds gathered around the competitive punching-bag booth arranged by the National Guard and the pull-up bar set up by the Marines. At the Air Force tent, students took turns getting out of the chilly breeze and trying their eye-hand coordination at the virtual on-screen combat simulations.
Executive Director, volunteer Steve Seymour came armed with facts, figures and “Lena” the foundation’s travelling helicopter, to speak to students about the opportunities available with some training. “There’s good money in aviation. A population of the mechanics is getting older and right now we have a problem. Boeing--all these companies here that are in South Carolina with good opportunities—we don’t have enough people to man them—and we’re talking decent money. You go to Boeing and you’re making way more than most people make. It’s not that difficult. You can go to a private school or a public school: Trident Tech, Greenville Tech and PIA in Myrtle Beach—they all run aviation schools and you can get your A and P (airframe and powerplant) Certification through them,” he said.
Director of Special Projects volunteer Dave Capps took advantage of a break between busloads of disembarking students to share his vision. “We interact with schools at many different levels in different manners,” he said. “Today we’re an exhibit along with other exhibitors with the five branches and different levels of law enforcement which is awesome having this all together in this forum. Hats off to Georgetown and all the organizers,” said Capps. He recalled his visit of two years ago near the career center on GHS Campus. “With our assets and all these other fine exhibitors, it get attention. For instance, our AH-1 Cobra helicopter--undeniably on any campus we’ve ever been on—it gets the attention with the students and staff. With that attention, our information on our placards and signs is showing all the different job opportunities that are available, that are waiting for qualified people to fill them. So if they will focus on STEM subjects, there are well-paying, great rewarding jobs out there,” said Capps.
Quenaysha Holt, a junior who was visiting from Andrews High for the morning, took time to discuss the expo near the SWAT display “I like it—there’s a lot of different stuff,” she said. Her friend Alaysia Mogley agreed, ignoring the cold March wind and the other students climbing up in the military transport. “It’s nice, there’s a lot so see,” she said, her long eyelashes glancing toward the Cobra.