Story and photo by Sgt. Keven Parry, , CAB, 1st Inf. Div. Public Affairs
Flying remote controlled aircraft is a hobby that requires an investment of time and patience. With a little dedication a person can learn to master the controls of various types of RC aircraft, causing small machines, and big imaginations, to take flight.
The skill of flying RC aircraft has allowed Chief Warrant Officer 2 Eric McKnight to serve other Soldiers, giving them a chance to get caught up in flying with him every Monday night at the Warrior Transition Battalion.
McKnight is a platoon leader in F Company, 2-1 General Support Aviation Battalion, Combat Aviation Brigade, 1st Infantry Division. He is also a member of the Riley County Fliers, an RC flying club based out of Manhattan, Kan.
The WTB provides personal support to wounded Soldiers who require rehabilitative care and complex medical management. Every Monday after work McKnight takes some of his RC aircraft to the WTB where he puts on flying demonstrations along with additional members of his club and other RC fliers as part of a dinner event supported by Pointman Ministries.
“He’s just got that Soldier ‘I care about you’ persona,” said Gene Roles, the Pointman Ministries outpost leader in Topeka. “He just loves these guys, and he shares his love for aviation. And it gives these guys the confidence to try new and different things.”
McKnight said that the RC flying program at the WTB provides an outlet option for Soldiers. Having a reason to get out and socialize with community members and other Soldiers is helpful, and the RC flying program contributes to the social care of wounded warriors.
“I love to instruct with these guys,” McKnight said. “To me, it’s all progress.”
Dale Harshberger, a Soldier at the WTB and an RC pilot, said that for Soldiers who have been through a traumatic event, it is often difficult to think of anything else. The RC program is helpful because it requires a person to focus on flying, allowing the Soldier to mentally step away from their difficulties.
“It’s very therapeutic for Soldiers who’ve got an illness or injury,” Harshberger said.
The degree of extracurricular participation in RC flying by the Soldiers of the WTB varies, however any involvement is good for McKnight and the Soldiers he meets.
“You can see the creativity, that spark and the interest,” said McKnight.
A small spark of interest or a single visit to the Manhattan club makes the effort worthwhile for McKnight and adds another dimension to his hobby. Not only does he get to do something he loves, but he gets to share his interest with other Soldiers.