Camas schoolchildren recently had the unique opportunity to climb aboard a helicopter, hop on a response boat and meet Coast Guard personnel.
The June 6 visit had been arranged by Jeff Lukowiak, a resident agent-in-charge with the Coast Guard Investigative Service.
Lukowiak is a 20 year veteran of the Coast Guard and the father of two students at Helen Baller.
“I spend so much time away from home tending to the needs of the service, it’s always fun to get to share my job and experiences with my family and children so I thought why not share with everyone I can,” he said.
“I always feel great being able to share my opinion that I work for the best organization in the world,” Lukowiak said. “We get to save people’s lives, protect the environment and make a difference everyday. How many people get to do that and get paid for it?”
In his presentation to the schoolchildren, Lukowiak talked about the Coast Guard and water safety.
“I highlighted the rough waters of the Columbia River, the need to be careful around the rivers and lakes, and if they can, I stressed to always wear a life jacket,” he said. “We talked about hypothermia and a little about the two assets and units of the Coast Guard who came to show and tell.”
Lt. David McCown was among the Coast Guard pilots and crew that visited from Astoria. He arrived with Lt. Junior Grade Adam Whalen and Aviation Maintenance Technician Shawn McCann.
They brought along a new MH60-T Jayhawk. According to McCown, it recently replaced the MH-60J Jayhawk.
“It incorporates a brand new avionics package, vastly improved communication capabilities and an integrated sensor package that includes an infrared camera,” he said.
“I enjoy doing community outreach and letting kids learn about the Coast Guard, our missions and allow them to have a chance to see a helicopter up close,” McCown added. “There are numerous people that I work with that became pilots simply because they had a similar chance when they were young.”
Coast Guard Machinery Technician Second Class Bradley Lemasters and Seaman Matthew Williams transported a 25-foot response boat on a trailer. The boat is capable of reaching speeds close to 50 mph.
Kelly Lednicky, a para educator/special education assistant, said students were “awed” by the experience.
“The pilots and the crew members were so nice and helpful,” she said. “They answered the children’s questions and helped them get into and out of the boat and helicopter. It was just a great experience for young and old alike.”
Lednicky said the Coast Guard visit inspired students.
“I think it gives them a opportunity to see there are possibilities outside of their own immediate sphere,” she said.
Helen Baller Principal Aaron Parman recalled how the students asked questions including “Do you like your job? Why? Did you go to college? What is the hardest part of your job? How fast does your boat go? and Have you ever rescued anyone?”
“For most students and teachers, it was a once-in-a-lifetime experience,” he added.