PHOTOS: National Guard Chopper Touches Down In Mahwah
Helicopter landing was part of the township's annual Junior Police Academy
Over 200 Mahwah kids gathered outside the Ramapo Ridge Middle School Thursday morning to watch a US National Guard Helicopter land in the field outside the school.
The landing was part of the 11th annual Junior Police Academy, put on each year by the Mahwah Police Department and Mahwah Municipal Alliance, a charity organization made up of township police officers and parent volunteers.
JPA cadets, who are rising sixth graders, joined student instructors, who are going into the seventh through twelfth grades, and a group of college interns helping run this year’s Academy to watch the helicopter landing along with their police instructors.
US National Guard Major Mike Lapoint and CW5 Jeff Angle then spent about half an hour answering students’ questions about the helicopter and letting the kids get an up-close look at the aircraft. The two also explained what they do with the helicopter, which includes search and rescue missions and assisting ground law-enforcement units with identifying marijuana-growing operations and other illegal activity.
Both Lapoint and Angle have been deployed to Iraq twice, flying the chopper as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom, they said.
The helicopter landing was one event of many during the two-week long JPA, which is set to wrap up with a graduation ceremony Friday. Over the past two weeks, participants have met with the county SWAT Team, toured the US Coast Guard and the Bergen County Police Academy, and rode in police cars. They also receive blocks of instruction on different law enforcement topics, like drunk driving, handcuffing, self-defense, and working with other emergency response agencies.
“Kids learn about fire and EMS personnel as well, and about how all of the different agencies work together,” Mahwah Officer Joe Horn, who coordinates the JPA, said.
The teaching police officers also work in lessons on behavior. Students are placed in simulated drunk-driving scenarios, where they attempt to drive golf carts through a cone-marked course while wearing fatal vision goggles, which simulate vision when intoxicated. “It’s a great way to show them how skewed the perception is when they are under the influence,” Horn said.
The older students help organize and work with the younger students during the weeks’ events.
“The peer-to-peer monitoring is the best part,” Horn said. “As the younger kids are moving into the older schools, they have familiar, friendly faces already there, friends that they met at the JPA. It works against bullying and helps build a stronger school community.”
With about 50 percent of Mahwah’s sixth graders enrolled in the JPA, and a growing number of older students coming back to be student instructors and interns each year, Horn said the interaction between the students is “such a great thing. And, all the while, they are learning the respect and disciple the officers are teaching them. Plus, they get to know us and we get to know them. The kids get to have a great relationship with the police officers in their town.”
Get more information about the Junior Police Academy at the MMA website.