By Emily Younker
Capt. Amanda Self wanted to do something for the people who are helping to make a new military program at Missouri Southern State University a reality.
So, she arranged for nearly 30 of them, from the university and the city of Joplin, to tour Joplin on Wednesday from inside a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter flown by the Missouri Army National Guard aviation unit from Springfield.
The helicopter tour was “just to give back to them for supporting the program,” Self said. “It’s really just to say thank you to them. The program wouldn’t survive without it (their support).”
Self teaches military science at MSSU as part of the Show-Me Gold program, which gives students the opportunity to become commissioned officers in the National Guard through classroom instruction, laboratories and physical condition training.
The program, announced last fall, will launch in August. Self said she has been working this semester to build the curriculum, recruit students, find training spaces on the campus and make sure equipment is available.
She said her recruiting goal for the first semester is 25 students.
“We have several that are interested that are just waiting for the program to start,” she said.
Support from MSSU officials and the city has been critical in preparing for the program’s launch, Self said. MSSU administrators, in particular, have been helpful in assisting with the logistics of developing courses and designating training areas for students to use, she said.
“There are many ways that they’ve helped,” she said. “It’s been kind of like a little team-building exercise. I’m just the one that wears the uniform that stands out there.”
MSSU President Bruce Speck, a veteran of the Vietnam War, said university officials have wanted a military program on the campus for years. He said Wednesday after his helicopter tour that he expects Show-Me Gold to be a success.
“We’re just tickled to death to be able to have that program,” he said. “We’re very happy to be able to support the state and the people in the state. I think there is a strong sense of patriotism (in Southwest Missouri), and this, I think, logically supports that.”