Soldiers help students build trust
January 15, 2014
FORT BENNING, Ga., (Jan. 15, 2014) -- While their classmates were learning how to divide mixed numbers or discovering the land of giants in Gulliver's Travels, 200 seventh-grade students from Muscogee County's Blackmon Road Middle School were given the opportunity to build skills they will carry with them for the rest of their lives, according to the school's assistant principal Eric Grigsby.
On Jan. 9, with frigid southern temperatures hovering around 40 degrees, about 20 "Buffalo" Soldiers from the 3rd Brigade Special Troops Battalion, 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team, spent the morning with the students at the Army National Guard Warrior Training Center on Harmony Church, where they were given the chance to test their physical and mental strength on a 12-station obstacle course.
The students were broken into 10 groups and given their tasks, conditions and standards and a safety brief. Safety was the first priority, 1st Lt. Robert Perez-Alemany said, but motivation and determination were a requirement as well.
Perez-Alemany, the training officer with Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 3rd BSTB, spent nearly two months planning the event for the students. He said it was intended to accomplish three goals.
"We wanted to show them that they have leadership potential, that they have the determination to do the course and that they have the motivation to finish it," said the San Juan, Puerto Rico native. "We have a role to tutor, mentor and teach them our Army Values, and we take that very seriously."
The obstacle course, which is used during WTC Air Assault Course offered at Fort Benning, included a low belly crawl, an incline climb, a confidence climb, high step over and rope bridge.
"The worst was trying to crawl through that cold and wet dirt," said Ariel Hill, 13, one of the students who participated in the event.
Hill isn't going to let a little bit of Georgia mud deter her from her dreams of joining the Army one day.
"I don't know what I would want to do (in the Army) yet, but I know that I want to serve when I am older," she said. "My granddad served 29 years. Well, 29 and a half -- almost 30 -- and I want to do the same."
Blackmon Road Middle School has many students whose parents are currently serving or have previously served in the military, Grigsby said.
"The partnership we have with the Soldiers is beneficial in so many ways," Grigsby said. "They are an integral part of our community. The students are building confidence. They are learning to trust in themselves, in their peers and in the (noncommissioned officers) who are out here helping them and mentoring them. We appreciate this opportunity, because many of the students have never had a chance to do this and many may never have the chance to do it again. It's important that we build them up, allow them to trust in themselves and trust in others."
Grigsby emphasized the importance of trust between the students and the Soldiers, because it hasn't been earned in a day at an obstacle course.
"The Soldiers come to the school and they tutor the kids. They have come out for career day, and they will tell them everything they know, answer every question, and show these kids what it means to contribute, to show honor and respect," Grigsby said. "Our school has a saying; 'One Blackmon.' We have high expectations for our students. We tell them, 'You are a part of something larger than yourself.'"
The partnership with the 3rd BSTB is fitting, Grigsby said. The unit and Army values mirror that of the school's.
As the last rotation round horn rang, and the rain began to trickle, students gathered their belongings and did a "double time" to the bleachers, where Perez-Alemany gave the students a quick after action report, much like what would follow any Army mission, and a good job for a hard day's work.
"We showed them that they could complete this if they put their mind to it, and they did," Perez-Alemany said. "Mission fulfilled."
The 3rd BSTB and Blackmon Road Middle School participate in monthly partnership activities on Fort Benning and within Muscogee County as part of the Partners in Education program.
The two have a well-established partnership, that has flourished over the last two years, Perez-Alemany said.
According to the Columbus Chamber of Commerce, the Greater Columbus PIE program was established in 1987 as a joint venture of the Muscogee County School District and the Greater Columbus Chamber of Commerce. It's intended to improve education by "stimulating meaningful business and community involvement in public schools." Through partnership, "public and private school are now able to tap resources to meet the individual needs of each student body, provide excellent education programming, and recognize achievement."