FAIRBANKS, Alaska - Brig. Gen. Raymond P. Palumbo, U.S. Army Alaska commanding general, launches Fort Wainwright's official USARAK school partnership program during the agreement signing with Taber Rehbaum (right), chief executive officer, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Alaska, Pete Lewis (center), Fairbanks North Star Borough School District superintendent, and Col. Timothy A. Jones (not pictured), Fort Wainwright garrison commander, Tuesday at the FNSB School District building.

FORT WAINWRIGHT, Alaska - Leaders from Fort Wainwright and U.S. Army Alaska joined Pete Lewis, Fairbanks North Star Borough school district superintendent, and representatives from Big Brothers Big Sisters of Alaska Tuesday at the FNSB school district office to sign an official partnership agreement.

Signing the agreement marked an important milestone in the relationship between Fort Wainwright, area schools and BBBS and kicked off USARAK's official school partnership program with the borough school district.

"We are very pleased to sign this partnership agreement with the Fairbanks North Star Borough School District and Big Brothers Big Sisters of Alaska to formally cement a long-standing relationship and partnership program that has linked us together for years," said Col. Timothy A. Jones, Fort Wainwright garrison commander.

Even though an informal partnership between Fort Wainwright and the FNSB School District is already in place, "the agreement formalizes the partnerships between the schools and units and it gives us more guidelines and ... a little more direction," said Lynda Goodwin, Fort Wainwright School Liaison officer.

Although working with area schools is nothing new for Wainwright Soldiers, having a signed agreement will create continuity and a blueprint for future interaction between schools and units here, she explained.

The agreements also provide benefits for Soldiers and families, many of whom live in the community and attend borough schools. "These partnership programs are exactly what we need to strengthen the military family in our community," said Brig. Gen. Raymond P. Palumbo, USARAK commanding general.

Under the new agreement, units will solidify the informal relationships they have established with schools and will add new types of activities like mentoring and tutoring to the list of ways they interact with their partner schools.

"The partnership creates a great opportunity for Fort Wainwright Soldiers to give back to the Fairbanks community," said Heather Bauer, Child, Youth and School Services program operations specialist. "Soldiers will be volunteering in the local schools on a variety of levels, from field days to listening to children read. There are also opportunities for BBBS to match Soldiers with students. The Soldiers will mentor their little brother or little sister for one hour per week in the school setting. Fort Wainwright Soldiers will be positively impacting Fairbanks' most valuable asset: its children."

Palumbo noted that a partnership program at Fort Richardson recently launched and although the programs at Forts Wainwright and Richardson are at differing stages of development, evaluating the programs and sharing best practices between the two USARAK installations will be key to success at both locations. "Maybe we can take some of the good practices that we're doing up here and take them to Anchorage," he said. "We're one team, one fight; even though we're spread across two installations that are a six-hour drive apart."

Lewis said he intended to borrow Palumbo's "one team, one fight" motto since it applied to his mission in the school district as well.

"It certainly is applicable to education in terms of making sure we connect with all kids and making sure that they're successful. We're just looking forward to (the partnership program) because ... of the leadership skills that (Soldiers) possess and the role models that they can be to our kids - some of who don't have those role models - that can really be powerful," Lewis said.

With the addition of BBBS to the partnership program, Soldiers will have even more opportunities to volunteer and affect children in the community.

"We've found that military personnel make wonderful big brothers and big sisters and really instill in kids an appreciation of both our military partners and their ability to succeed in school and in life," said Taber Rehbaum, chief executive officer, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Alaska. "It has been a wonderful partnership for many years here in Fairbanks and also in Anchorage. We're delighted to strengthen it today."

Units and Soldiers enjoy the volunteer opportunities the school partnership program provides and look forward to their activities in the schools and not just in the short term, Goodwin said.

"Every unit that I've gotten a hold of has been excited about getting this going and doing this," she said. "So I think this is something that is going to be here (for a while)."

USARAK's school partnership program linked the following units and schools: 1st Battalion, 24th Infantry Regiment, 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team, partnered with Badger Road Elementary School; 3rd Battalion, 21st Infantry Regiment, 1-25th SBCT, partnered with Barnette Magnet School and Ladd Elementary School; 5th Squadron, 1st Cavalry Regiment, 1-25th SBCT, partnered with Tanana Middle School; 2nd Battalion, 8th Field Artillery Regiment, 1-25th SBCT, partnered with Arctic Light Elementary School; 1st Battalion, 5th Infantry Regiment, 1-25th SBCT, partnered with Ticasuk Brown Elementary School; 25th Brigade Support Battalion, 1-25th SBCT, partnered with Anne Wien Elementary School; 6th Squadron, 17th Cavalry Regiment, 16th Combat Aviation Brigade, partnered with North Pole High School; and 1st Battalion, 52nd Aviation Regiment, 16th CAB, partnered with North Pole Middle School.

Page last updated Fri July 22nd, 2011 at 12:16