KILLEEN, Texas — Barriers are generally meant to keep what's in in and what's out, out. The gates surrounding any military installation are meant to provide security and limit post access to authorized individuals.
But Soldiers are figuratively tearing down the barrier between the military and the surrounding cities. In fact, some military units are partnered with not only those cities, but also their schools to form a working relationship, so the citizens, children and Soldiers can become one community.
The Adopt-A-School program connects a local school to a unit on post. This allows the Army to contribute time and resources to the schools in order to nurture intellectual, emotional, social, and physical growth of the children. In turn, this increases the awareness of the Army's mission and fosters good relations.
The 1st Battalion, 12th Cavalry Regiment and 215th Brigade Support Battalion helped their adopted schools with multiple events May 29 at both Shoemaker High School and Bellaire Elementary School here respectively.
Soldiers with 1st Battalion, 12th Cavalry Regiment, 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team,1st Cavalry Division watch a flag football game at Shoemaker High School during a Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps organizational day at Killeen, Texas, May 29, 2015. About 20 1-12 Cav. Soldiers spent the day at the school to help out where they were needed in support of the Adopt-A-School program. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Brandon Banzhaf, 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division)
“The role of the Soldiers being out here is to help facilitate all of the events and work with the cadre to make sure everything runs smoothly,” said 2nd Lt. Jason Huggy, a Chicago native and battalion medical service officer for 1-12 Cav. “We are also here to motivate the cadets, to make sure they have a good time, and to show our support for our community.”
At Shoemaker High School, Huggy and a platoon of 1-12 Cav medics volunteered to help facilitate an organizational day, or a day filled with various sports and activities, for 273 Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps cadets.
“It builds camaraderie, enthusiasm, motivation, and esprit de corps through athletic events,” said Morris Knight, a Montgomery, Alabama, native and an Army JROTC instructor at Shoemaker High School. “The same type of things we are used to in the military, we try to instill that into the students.”
With Soldiers helping to set up the events, acting as referees, and cheering on the students competing in athletic events, some of the cadets took notice.
“To me, it's like we are mini-Soldiers, so it's nice to see a real-life Soldier in action helping us out,” said Ashontaye Gadson, a Shreveport, Louisiana, native and the JROTC student battalion commander. “It's nice to see the faces of the people who inspire us.”
Meanwhile, across town Bellaire Elementary School was hosting a kickball game between the 5th graders and their teachers. The 215th BSB showed up to help the school ensure the kids were safe, and some even played alongside the children - providing their team with a little more power.
“A lot of the students out here love to see the Soldiers come by and help,” said Staff Sgt. Jessica Vereen, a Mobile, Alabama native, career counselor and Adopt-a-School representative for 215th BSB. “We are always busy, but I don't mind taking a couple of hours to come out and help these kids keep smiles on their faces.”
Vereen has been bringing Soldiers to the school's events since the beginning of the school year.
At this event, hundreds of students from various grade levels surrounded the field to cheer on their fellow classmates. When the 5th graders needed help, the Soldiers stepped in to assist them - whether it was fetching the ball or helping tag the teachers out to prevent runs.
“The Adopt-A-School program is about building cohesion between the military and the community,” Vereen said. “If your unit needs something, get out there and say ‘I'm ready to volunteer.'”
By U.S. Army Sgt. Brandon Banzhaf
Provided through DVIDS
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