599th Soldiers create excitement for 2nd graders

Soldiers from the 599th Transportation Brigade stationed at Wheeler Army Airfield, Hawaii, provided 80 students at Ka'ala Elementary School in Wahiawa a different kind of recess on Nov 17 when they shared elements of a typical Army physical training workout with 2nd graders.

"They were dying for the Soldiers to get here," said Alison Thatcher, 2nd grade teacher at Ka'ala. "This is the highlight of their week. They love anything with Soldiers."

While Sgt. 1st Class Emilio Calzada, the brigade's first sergeant, was putting half the 7- and 8-year-old students through the paces of their first physical training, Sgt. 1st Class LoNika Harris, noncommissioned officer in charge of plans, gave the other half of the students an up-close look at the soldiers' armored vests and helmets.

Students handed around the armored plate from the back of the vest and then took turns trying on the vest and helmet with Harris' help.

After 15 minutes, the students changed sides; those who had already tried on the equipment moved over with Calzada to learn to march, salute, and do jumping jacks and pushups with a military-style count.

As the children got ready to go back into the school after the 30-minute event, Aiyana Marie Fujiyama, 7, said she had enjoyed the jumping jacks the most, while Anela Schmidt, 7, said her favorite part was just seeing the Soldiers.

Thatcher said that although the school is close to Wheeler Army Airfield and Schofield Barracks, less than one percent of the children are from military families.

Ted Fisher, Ka'ala principal, said, "This activity demonstrated the true mission of our military partners, and that is to provide people an opportunity to live their lives to the fullest.

"Working with the military has always been a positive and uplifting experience for us. The students come from a challenging environment, and it's important for them to see there are people who care.

"Even though the Soldiers are tasked with other responsibilities right now, I appreciate that they come to spend time with the children," Fisher said.

"This has been really great. The kids are very excited and they love feeling like they are part of the military, and just doing special things. I hope they can do this more, and this can continue for them for years to come," Thatcher said.

Calzada, who came to Hawaii in May, said he plans to continue to volunteer with the students. He has volunteered at schools for the past five years.

"It started in New Jersey. At Fort Monmouth I volunteered at an elementary school, and then at Fort Hood, with a middle school. I have a friend, a teacher here, who helped set this up," he said.

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