Almost daily, the 91st Space Wing’s 54th Helicopter Flight makes routine flights across the North Dakota plains, but on April 27 they made a special flight to the town of Ryder, N.D.
E-mail this page
MINOT AIR FORCE BASE, N.D. — Almost daily, the 91st Space Wing’s 54th Helicopter Flight makes routine flights across the North Dakota plains, but on April 27 they made a special flight to the town of Ryder, N.D.
Thirty-eight years earlier, a helicopter from Minot AFB touched down outside an elementary school in the small town to pick up Ryder’s mayor. That moment made a lasting impression on seven-year-old Jody Reinisch.
Thirty-eight years later, Mr. Reinisch is mayor of Ryder and was able to relive his memory when the helicopter landed at a small baseball field in his hometown to display for the local community.
“It was so loud. It vibrated the windows of the school,” said Mayor Reinisch, recalling the day in 1967. “The teachers wouldn’t even let us outside to see it, and today we get that opportunity.”
The event came to life when the mayor and the city councilors wanted to do something special for the town.
“I thought ‘what you can give kids in this day in age who have everything?’” said the mayor. “Let’s see if we can get a helicopter.”
When the helicopter landed at the baseball field, children from schools in Ryder and Makoti, N.D., rushed over to the UH-1N Huey while Capt. Amy Meier and 1st Lt. David Fink, 54th HF pilots, and Senior Airman Chris Smith, 54th HF engineer, explained to them the controls in the helicopter and signed countless autographs for the young patriots.
“Some of these kids are young and get scared from it when they see it fly over their homes,” said Mayor Reinisch. “This is a great opportunity for all to see that the base is here for our protection.”
This visit was unlike any other, and history was being made, according to Lt. Col. Paul Rogerson, 741st Missile Squadron of operations.
“This was worth it to see all the smiles on the kids’ faces,” he said.
The event was not just for the children, but for the entire town. Ryder city auditor Barb Folden had posted a sign for all to see, reading, “Special guests at the baseball field at 10 a.m. Bring camera.”
“We had farmers stop working in the fields to come out and see this,” said Mayor Reinisch.
For the pilots it was a special occasion as well. “There are kids that see [helicopters] on TV, and today they saw the real thing,” said Lieutenant Fink.
The helicopter visit probably instilled the idea in the children they too could become pilots, said Captain Meier.
“I wanted to be a pilot since I was in sixth grade,” said Captain Meier. “During [Desert Storm] my pen pal was a pilot, and since then I’ve known what I wanted to do.”
Although the Air Force has had a presence in Ryder and the surrounding communities for more than 40 years, there’s rarely much interaction between the two.
“A lot of these kids don’t make it up to Northern Neighbors Day, and for the Air Force to have the decency to come down here and bring it to them is just terrific,” said Mayor Reinisch.