National Guard members help Edgewood math students calculate paths to success

Area high school math students applied their recently learned skills today while getting a taste of military life courtesy of Maryland Army National Guard Soldiers from the 29th Combat Aviation Brigade and the 1st Battalion, 175th Infantry Regiment.

Ho Chang, a mathematics teacher at Edgewood High School and a former Army air defense artillery officer, brought 60 of his juniors and seniors out to Lauderick Creek Training Site and the nearby Edgewood Area of Aberdeen Proving Ground to examine vehicle displays of trucks and helicopters and participate in a land navigation course, seeing first-hand how math permeates all aspects of even military life.

"We're trying to incorporate our classroom learning out in the field," said Chang. What better opportunity to go out in the real world and apply what they learned in the classroom?"

Shortly after the students arrived at the training site, they received a safety briefing. The infantry Soldiers then demonstrated one of their common tasks-an assault on an objective. Blank-firing crew-served weapons barked out as Sgt. Maj. John Greer, operations sergeant major for the 29th Combat Aviation Brigade pointed out the changing angles of bullet trajectories as the assaulting Soldiers "lifted and shifted" their fire.

After the infantry demonstration, the students split into groups and used their new land navigation skills to find set points in the adjacent woods. A Maryland Army National Guard member accompanied each group and assisted as needed.

The planning for this event started in January and progressed as the students studied the components of land navigation in the classroom. Earlier in the week, Greer went to Edgewood High School and gave the students an initial safety briefing and some hands-on instruction on land navigation techniques.

"They learned all about degrees, distances and azimuths and converting from grid to magnetic (North). It was full circle for me, because I remember being the kid in that seat," said Greer, himself a 1982 graduate of Edgewood High School who actually went to Basic Combat Training the summer before his senior year.

"We gave them the points we wanted them to find on this site, but they had to calculate the angles and the distances. Once they get here, they have to apply that along with using a compass and their pace count," said Matthew Rankin, Edgewood High School mathematics department chair.

As the students found their way out of the woods, they were greeted by static displays of a National Guard Light Medium Tactical Vehicle and a Humvee, both armor-clad and staples of military operations.

After boarding buses and moving to the Weide Army Airfield, the students had the opportunity to get up-close views of the Army's newest helicopter, the LUH-72 "Lakota" and the workhorse UH-60 "Blackhawk."

According to Rankin, the day was about more than applied school work. He saw the day as an opportunity to bring different groups of the community together.

"It's a three-pronged attack: math in the real world, an experience with the National Guard and fun," said Rankin. "The more partnerships we build, the better off our students are, the better off the community is and the better off the schools are."

Sgt. 1st Class Leo Sturm, a Maryland Army National Guard recruiter, agreed from a military perspective.

"It allows the public to truly see us and how we act. We're actually people that live here and work in Maryland; we just happen to wear a uniform," said Sturm.

In addition to the Edgewood High School students and teachers, Tarah Gilson, Fallston High School mathematics department chair, was along for the fun, scouting the event as a possible field trip for her students as well. The two department chairs even discussed having a friendly land navigation competition between the rival schools.

The day was a success for all the groups involved. The teachers demonstrated how math exists all around us, and the students got out of the classroom for a day while learning more than just numbers on paper. Meanwhile, the Maryland Army National Guard showed off their skills and may have helped several young minds contemplate a future career of military service.

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