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Army Recruiters Up Their Game With Visit From Aerial Reconnaissance Pilot At Cape Airport

Clayton Hester/KRCU

“Typically, a recruiting office doesn’t call in an Army spy plane.” says staff sergeant Bill McDonald.

The plane - also referred to as an MC-12M Enhanced Medium Altitude Reconaissance & Surveillance System Aircraft - was on display Thursday at the Cape Girardeau Regional Airport in coordination with the Army Cape Girardeau Recruiting Office.

McDonald says he knew the aircraft’s pilot, Chief Warrant Officer Michael Degroff, and was able to talk to him about showing the airplane during a visit. Degroff is an “eye in the sky” for ground troops: locating and watching any targets or threats until soldiers can find them.

“I reached out to him and asked him if he’d like to fly over here and show our future soldiers that, hey, we have fixed wings just like the Air Force,” says McDonald. “A lot of people don’t know that.”

The goal of the event was to help with recruiting efforts.

“For Army air crews, we’re required to fly a certain number of hours a year in order to maintain proficiency, and if there’s a way we can support another Army unit while meeting those training objectives, we like to do it,” Degroff says.

He said the Army, in comparison to the Air Force, has many helicopters and a small fleet of fixed wing planes, such as the one available today. The main difference between the two, Degroff says, is the unique rank of chief warrant officer for most Army pilots.

Interested in going down the career path of an Army pilot? Stay in school and get good grades, Degroff says, all while staying physically fit.  

“The Army needs well-rounded individuals,” he says. “There’s a stereotype out there that only the dredges of society join the military. Well that’s just simply not true.”


McDonald says Cape Girardeau’s recruiters are doing well.

“We’re tasked by [the Department of Defense] to find highly qualified men and women between the ages of 17 and 35,” he said. “Since I came here in October of 2017, I’ve been blessed with a very talented crew.”

The recruiting office sees people from all “walks of life,” including both recent university graduates and those who have yet to gain secondary education. The Army is able to provide them with tuition assistance on up to $65,000 in debt. Despite all the benefits, the staff sergeant said there’s never such a thing as too many recruits.

But, McDonald said one cannot join the army to be a recruiter or a station commander, rather, “you’re specially selected, specially paid, and specially managed.”