Long before Trevor Ruth put on an Army uniform, he saw his first helicopter at a school in Missouri.
Ruth, at the time a youth counselor, saw the UH-60 Black Hawk land as he drove past the school. He pulled over into a parking lot and took photos.
More than four years later, now-Chief Warrant Officer 2 Ruth had control of his Black Hawk as he eased it onto a grass field next to Albritton Middle School on Fort Bragg.
Like his encounter years earlier, Ruth hoped the visit might inspire students' future careers.
Ruth and other soldiers from the 2nd Assault Helicopter Battalion, 82nd Combat Aviation Brigade, 82nd Airborne Division, landed next to the school early Wednesday as part of a school-wide celebration of flight tied into STEAM -- or Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Mathematics -- week and the Month of the Military Child.
Laura Hussein, principal of Albritton, said the week's curriculum was designed to get students excited for STEAM fields and show them what careers are available in those fields.
While focusing on flight, she said students learned about the history of aviation, what makes helicopters stay in the air, heard from Army aviators and designed gliders.
The Black Hawk visit was the culminating event, Hussein said.
"They seem to really love it," she said as students took turns sitting behind the controls of the helicopter and posing for photos in the back of the machine.
More than one child pleaded with the soldiers to "fly them away" from the school. Others asked how they could become pilots themselves or asked what a crew chief does.
Ruth said he remembered how the helicopter inspired him, too.
"It seemed like one of the coolest jobs I could think of," he said of his decision to become an Army pilot.
But not every student was lining up to become a pilot.
Trevor Antonson, an eighth-grader, said he had no interest in becoming a pilot, but he still thought the visit was cool.
His father, Chief Warrant Officer 3 Kyle Antonson, was one of the Black Hawk pilots who earlier in the week visited the school to talk about flying.
"He explained how it flies and what the tail rotor does," Trevor said. "Just the basics."
Hussein said the helicopter visit highlights the unique opportunities of schools at Fort Bragg.
"We can bring the world to them," she said. "Just having unique resources nearby is great."