Jonathan White graduated from the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga in 2019. He’d been back to campus for commencements and other events.
But he’d never returned to campus while piloting a U.S. Army helicopter.
On Wednesday, Nov. 1, White landed a Blackhawk helicopter on Chamberlain Field to give ROTC cadets at UTC a chance to ride in the aircraft—or “airframe,” as those in the Army call it—and also to answer questions from the cadets.
“It was really awesome,” said White, a captain stationed at Fort Campbell, Kentucky. “It was cool just to be able to point things out. It was like, ‘I know what that is’ or ‘Oh, that’s a new building.’ It was a lot of fun.”
In groups of seven to nine cadets each, White—who graduated with a degree in marketing and entrepreneurship—flew three 20-minute trips around Chattanooga with cadets inside the Blackhawk.
“It was a super-exhilarating experience, something that’s a once-in-a-lifetime kind of deal. I had a blast,” said Tyler Mullins, a senior in anthropology and captain in the UTC ROTC.
“We’ve been putting in a lot of work over the past couple of weeks. For us to be rewarded with something like this, something unique like this, I think it kind of keeps our eyes focused on where they need to be and gives us a little reward for working hard.”
Capt. Stuart Allgood, head of the Department of Military Science at UTC, said the helicopter flights had two purposes.
“One, to give our cadets exposure to what it’s like to ride in a helicopter. It’s kind of one of those opportunities that you get when you’re part of an organization like ROTC,” Allgood said.
“Two is to help with recruiting and just get exposure to the program, not only internally but externally, so people can see some of the assets we have and what they’re capable of around campus. If it piques their interest and they’re more than willing to come talk to us, OK.”
After the final flight, White fielded questions from the cadets, who asked about life as an Army pilot, the types of missions he flew, the steps to becoming a pilot and other questions about the inner workings of the military.
While he has the marketing and entrepreneurship degree, White said he plans to make a career out of the Army. But that could change.
“We’ll see again once we have added kids to the mix,” he said.
The first addition to the mix is due to be added in March 2024—a daughter to be named Ellie Rose.