Remote Alaska students visit paratroopers
April 21, 2011
JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska - Yakutat is one of the biggest cities in the United States, but no roads lead there.
The 2000 census counted 808 residents living across its 9,459 square miles. The unified city-borough on the Gulf of Alaska is accessible only by air and sea.
Earlier this month 15 students from Yakutat Junior-Senior High School had an opportunity to see the urban side of Alaska, spending a week in Anchorage which included a day with paratroopers from Headquarters Company, 4th Brigade Combat Team (Airborne), 25th Infantry Division based here.
The students' military experience began with a morning physical training session.
The early wakeup was courtesy of a partnership between the Rose Urban Rural Exchange and the HHC, 4-25th sponsorship program with Begich Middle School in Anchorage.
The paratroopers hosted the students March 26 as part of its ongoing school sponsorship program with Begich Middle School.
The visit to the Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson and the 4-25th was part of a larger lesson in government, according to Deborah Abshier, a Begich Middle School teacher.
"The exchange program is an awesome way for kids to understand needs across the state," Abshier said. "The Yakutat students had expressed an interest in learning about government and JBER as a community."
The day started with 30 minutes of PT, led by Spc. Ericka Nadeaue and Spc. Brett Harber. This was their introduction to a day in the life of a paratrooper. They kept smiling through what were new ways of moving and stretching to them.
"We'll work on that one," said HHC Commander Capt. Justin Pritchard, with a smile, while the students practiced the bent-leg body twist.
Students completed their physical training and had the chance to touch and learn about a variety of weapons that service members carry in combat zones.
"When we deploy, we carry our weapons with us at all times," Pritchard said. "It's a part of our bodies."
In addition to basic information about the life of a soldier, the students were exposed to equipment and skills unique to the airborne community. Paratroopers from the 725th Brigade Support Battalion gave them an introduction to rigging a T-10D parachute and talked about what it's like to be a parachute rigger.
HHC, 725th Brigade Support Battalion 1st Sgt. Carlos Cortes and his wife, Staff Sgt. Bethany Cortes both volunteer at Begich Middle School.
"These are our future leaders, " Cortes said as members of his unit interacted with the students. "We show them things they may encounter later."
For most of the students, this was their first time visiting JBER.
"I've been thinking about joining the military," Cheyenne Ekis, an 8th-grader from Yakutat said. "This makes me think about it more,"
"They're enamored with this right now," Yakutat teacher Carol Pate said, as her students tried on parachutes for the first time.
The JBER visit concluded a week of activities in the Anchorage area for the students.