Four members of the Kansas City Chiefs cheerleading squad visited Fort Bragg Nov. 30. The cheerleaders were scheduled to participate in the annual Trees for Troops giveaway at the Smith Lake Recreation Area, but were delayed by a cancelled flight.
However, once on post, the group stopped by Bowley and Devers elementary schools, which garnered an enthusiastic response from the students, according to Frank Hanan, community relations officer with the Garrison Public Affairs Office.
“The kids were excited,” he said. “It was amazing.”
Next on the squad’s itinerary was a tour of the Virtual Training Facility (VTF), where the cheerleaders and mascot were shown a virtual reality training room — featuring simulated weapons and a screen with animated combatants. Ashley*, the captain of the visiting squad and cheerleader for five years, expressed her excitement about her first visit of Fort Bragg.
“I’ve been to Lackland Air Force Base (Texas), Fort Meade (Maryland), Fort Leavenworth (Kansas) and quite a few others,” she said. “But we’ve met a lot of friendly people (today), and it’s an honor for the organization to visit these military bases.”
The VTF training instructor, Omar Soto, outlined the virtual exercise to the team, something he hoped would help with “understanding Soldiers.” As her teammates prepared for the training simulator to begin, Ashley continued.
“We got to meet the students this morning, and it was just … seeing their faces, they were so respectful and the teachers are amazing,” she said. “We just want to thank the military Families for their sacrifice and take those stories back with us. It’s hard to truly understand past snippets, but the visit puts everything in perspective.”
After a group picture with the VTF staff, the cheerleaders headed toward the flight simulators on Simmons Army Airfield. Capt. Lindsey Heisler, commander of Company C, 1st Attack Reconnaissance Battalion, 82nd Combat Aviation Brigade, 82nd Airborne Division, said her company has 35 people, 16 of whom are pilots.
“Special visits (like these) happen every once in a while, and we do our jobs, not trying to show off or impress,” Heisler said. “But, it’s a good opportunity to show them what we see.”
The cheerleaders broke off individually to try the different helicopter simulators, including the Chinook, Black Hawk and Apache — the interiors of which were designed to look like their real counterparts, with simulated motion and weapons systems. Callie*, a Chiefs cheerleader, tried the Black Hawk simulator and expressed “how cool” it was.
Regarding the importance of their visit in showing appreciation to the troops, Ashley drew from her experience in visiting numerous installations.
“The NFL is truly global, and everybody has their favorite team, but it’s a piece of home we try to bring them,” she said.
*Editor’s note: The cheerleaders’ last names have been withheld due to privacy.