Fort Rucker flight students, engineers aid local youth
February 25, 2010
FORT RUCKER, Ala. -- A team of flight school students recently helped improve the quality of life for children using the Hawk-Houston Boys and Girls Club facility in Dothan The Soldiers were recognized during a Jan. 18 ceremony.
Warrant officers repainted the building's exterior and beautified its yard earlier this month, according to Capt. Derek Smith, B Company, 1st Battalion, 145th Aviation Regiment commander.
"It's part of our service to our nation that we do community work," Smith said. "Students should improve the community."
The project began last year when Dothan Neighborhood Restoration Corporation members surveyed the city residents to find establishments and grounds requiring improvements. Chairman Samuel Crawford said the Boys and Girls Club was identified as one of those facilities, and the city's partnership with the Aviation unit prompted them to complete the renovations.
The installation and area communities mutually benefit each other, which is why Crawford said it's important everyone collaborates to improve the Wiregrass.
"I think everyone recognizes Soldiers for what they do in protecting this country," he said. "They also demonstrate professionalism. (Soldiers') presence ... helps restore and jump-start lives."
Students, in between various flight school phases, cited many reasons for working with the Dothan club.
"I think organizations like this give kids a place to go where they're more constructive," said WO1 Sean Mott. "It's a Soldier's mentality to leave places better than you found them."
Some of his fellow Aviators-in-training agreed.
"It's an opportunity to step back (from flight school) and do something ... to create opportunities for youngsters to be productive citizens," WO1 Mike Harrington said.
Student-pilots were not the only Fort Rucker servicemembers lending helping hands. More than a dozen former B Company, 46th Engineer Battalion Soldiers participated in reconstruction projects at the club over the past several months, according to Capt. Christopher Beal, former company commander. Their handiwork included installing sidewalks, and an outside awning and building bookshelves for the club library.
"I think it puts a positive image of the green suiters back in the public," Beal said of the unit's work. "Not only do they see us fighting the war on terrorism, but they also see us contributing to the community."
Even though the unit deactivated earlier this month, Beal said his Soldiers remained committed to improving their longtime home during their last days here. The Boys and Girls Club was only one of many community service projects the engineers have participated in since their redeployment from the Middle East last year. Staying busy helped the Soldiers fine tune and practice their occupational skills while stateside, Beal said. The former engineers have moved on to various units around the country and world.
All participants provided excellent role models for children participating in the program, Boys and Girls Club Executive Director Altha Newman said.
"It's improved the spirit of the club members and the morale there," she said.
Boys and Girls Club staff provides homework assistance, tutoring, sports, fitness and computer classes, mentoring services and more. About 40 to 45 children visit the facility on a regular basis, however there are more than 100 members, Newman said.