GREAT FALLS — Nestled on the Eastside of Great Falls, you'll find quiet neighborhoods. It's so quiet, the roar of helicopter engines can be heard far and wide from Malmstrom Air Force Base.
That rumble could be a number of aircraft flying overhead, but Claudia Riegelmeir has an ear for the 40th Helicopter Squadron.
"The boys are coming!" she says, dropping the task she's doing. Rustling her dogs, she calls out, "Come on boys, the boys are coming!"
Hustling into her backyard, this retired Air Force bride took a chance one day and never looked back.
"They just seem like they’re pretty close, they are over here then they circle over there. I just thought one day I am going to take a chance and wave at them..."
Nearly a year ago, Riegelmeir hasn't looked back. Each day she wakes up to knock our her daily list of chores and care for her husband recovering from a knee replacement. It's known in her home, when the rumble is in the distance, head to the back door.
"I thought they blinked their lights a couple of times," she explained. "I think when they are in pattern, it's kind of hard because they're in four, but when the circle around, they've come over the house and everything. I figured maybe they saw me."
Claudia's neighbor's caught wind of her daily routine and shortly, neighbors on both sides join in as often as then can.
The helicopters soaring above peaked her interest so much, she called down to the base.
Unbeknownst to the Malmstrom representative on the phone, they thought she was calling to complain. Nope - she wanted to bring down treats to the pilots that fly over her house each day.
The office connected with the commander of the Squadron and he suggested she be invited down for a visit.
It isn't often that a retired woman enjoys heavy machinery this often. Claudia was surprised and said she felt "goofy."
"There’s this old woman waving to these helicopters up here. Like my husband said, 'Do you know how old you are waving to these helicopters?' I said, 'They might have mothers and grandmothers, and I just wanted to do it."
To this day, Claudia looks forward to the rumble of the helicopters and accepted the invitation to get a hands on experience on the helicopter tarmac.
The 40th Helicopter Squadron at Malmstrom Air Force Base welcomed her with open arms, providing a tour of the base, aircraft, and lunch.
Of course, Claudia didn't forget her treats for the men and women of the Squadron.
With a grateful smile ear to ear she added, "I can’t believe I’m here! This is really interesting, and they have girl pilots! Yes!"