Christmas Wish Program
Sgt. 1st Class John Drummond discusses Christmas wishes with one child, while Sgt. 1st Class Daryl Somerville helps Santa give another child a gift at the Liberty County Head Start in Riceboro, Ga.

RICEBORO, Ga. - For the children at a local school, Christmas arrived a little early this year thanks to the Red Dragon Battalion and the Riceboro Fire Department.

Thirteen Soldiers of the 2-306th Field Artillery Battalion Red Dragons, 188th Infantry Brigade, served as Santa's elves after recognizing a need to provide gifts for children at Liberty County Head Start. The Soldiers of the battalion typically make weekly visits to the school; however, a busy mobilization cycle limited their participation this year.

"With all the mobilization missions we've been doing, we haven't been able to spend as much time doing our reading program at the school," said Sgt. 1st Class John D. Drummond. "So I talked to Command Sgt. Maj. Bean about doing something special for the kids this Christmas."

Because the Red Dragons wished to provide all 174 children with gifts, Soldiers and civilians of the 188th Infantry Brigade joined together to ensure their goal was reached. As a result, unit was able to provide a present for each child at Liberty County Head Start.

"We really wanted make sure we did something that would impact all the children at the school," said 2-306th Battalion Command Sgt. Maj. Patrick Bean.

Head Start preschool teachers Demmentrice I. Jefferson and Hope Galloza said the Red Dragons' Christmas Wish Program has a definite impact on the children and shows them that people really care about them.

"I think it's a great program, especially since the majority of the children come from low-income families," said Galloza. "It helps show the children that they are loved and very special."

Chief Warrant Officer 3 Paul A. Brown, battalion safety officer and elf, said he felt blessed that he was able to participate. Brown could relate to the children and wished there were programs like this one when he was growing up.

Santa was also moved by the experience.

"Their smiles keep me young," said Dennis Fitzgerald from the Riceboro Fire Department, who has been playing Santa for the children for a number of years. "I will continue until I can't do it anymore."

Between mobilization missions, the battalion is looking forward to the next event with the school, according to Bean. Their plan includes organizing a school Olympic day to finish out the children's school year.

"We try to make sure that our Soldiers as leaders are actively involved in our area and serve as our ambassadors to the community," he said.

The 188th Infantry Brigade, along with the other training support brigades in First Army Division East, provides and facilitates theater-focused training for deploying National Guard and Reserve units and assists with redeployment and demobilizing following deployment. Based out of Fort Stewart, the 188th "Battle Ready" Brigade has been training Reserve Component units for deployments continuously since 2003.

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