FORT HOOD, Texas - Four Soldiers sat in the front of the room, answering questions about military life and the situation in Iraq. Surrounded by interviewers, the room was set up as if the Soldiers were at a press conference.
But they weren't press. They were students.
The Soldiers were interviewed at Lamar Middle School in Temple, Texas, as part of a class journalism project April 24.
The teacher in charge, Anna Davila, native to Chicago, explained the origins of the assignment.
"They are doing a unit, as an 8th grade class, on the civil war in social studies," said Davila.
"To compliment that... we started studying civil war poetry and the effects of war on societies and the literature that comes out of that," she said. "The questions took a turn towards the more current, contemporary politics, and I said that I was not able to answer those questions, but that I was married to somebody who could."
Davila's husband, Capt. Damasio Davila, commander of Co. D, 1st Battalion, 12th Cavalry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, brought three enlisted Soldiers from his company to help him speak about Iraq and military life.
"It took root from him coming in and talking to the kids, to bringing in some enlisted guys, because he is a captain... and he doesn't have the combat experience these guys would have," said Anna.
"Then it developed into these were the top three guys he wanted to come and talk, and he felt they were qualified," she said.
"At first I was just going to come out here, but then she opened up the door to bring other Soldiers," said Damasio, a native of San Antonio. "I thought that would be a great idea... because what I do over there is vastly different from what (Sgt. Gabriel Santana, Sgt. Marion DeBoe and Spc. Robert Smith) did."
The assignment for the students was to ask the Soldiers in-depth questions for a news story.
"From here we will do a newspaper article so they get some experience writing," said Anna. "Hopefully we can get some of them published so they can say what that would work out to look like."
Damasio said he was impressed with the students' enthusiasm and questions.
"Some of these questions just amazed me like: 'How does your family deal with it''" said Damasio. "It's something that I didn't expect from eighth graders."
Both Davilas said they hoped the students would learn from the experience.
"A lot of these children don't have as much experience with the military (as those closer to military posts,)" Anna said.
"I think we had a positive day with the kids," said Damasio. "I think they learned something about the military - we're not just a whole bunch of robots.
"Hopefully it makes these kids aware of what's going on over there. These kids don't see Soldiers on a daily basis, and it's exciting for them," said Damasio. "I hope that it has a positive impact on the community."
Athena-Rose Lee, one of the students, expressed what she thought of the experience.
"Every morning... you hear them (news media) talking about the war, the Soldiers and everything that is happening," said Lee. "To have them come and (allow us) to ask them questions and get their input on it - I thought that was amazing."
Damasio said his Soldiers also took something from the experience.
"It helps them talk about what's going on over there (Iraq), and the success stories," said Damasio.
"Hopefully it helps them reflect on some of the successful things, not just the negative things," he said. "The success stories are there within the brigade and in the 1st Cav., and they need to be told to the community."
DeBoe said he loved every minute of it.
"Kids are curious -- they are going to ask the questions that most people won't ask - they don't hold anything back," said DeBoe.

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