Soldiers support local school reading initiative
February 13, 2013
CAMP ATTERBURY Ind., -- In addition to their primary mission of mobilizing and training Soldiers for worldwide deployments, Soldiers with the 2-307th Field Artillery Battalion, 157th Infantry Brigade, Camp Atterbury Joint Maneuver Training Center Ind., recently volunteered for another highly-visible mission -- spending time reading and talking with local school children.
A few months ago, Capt. Jose M. Gamboa, B Team Leader, 2-307th Field Artillery Battalion called Andrea Perry, principal of East Side Elementary School to talk about the possibility of his Soldiers supporting a local school. Perry wasted no time.
"We jumped at the chance to interact with the Soldiers as it is so beneficial for us to have these Soldiers supporting our initiative on reading," said Perry.
Under the initiative, began by Lt. Col. Johnny Workman, 2-307th Field Artillery Battalion Commander, the First Army Division East Soldiers volunteer on the first Friday of every month to visit classrooms to read a book and answer questions the children may have.
"We've been doing this for three to four months. I send out an email to all our teachers, and the sign up goes fast," continued Perry.
Sgt. 1st Class James W. Hammack, Trainer Mentor, 2-307th Field Artillery Battalion, on his third visit to the East Side, is a familiar face to Kathy Ison's second grade class.
"The students have developed their own relationship with him, and call him 'Smoke.' They absolutely love him," said Ison.
The visits are not just limited to reading. In times past, Hammack individually tutored students needing help with vocabulary. While the students receive the benefit of this great partnership, it is not limited to the students only.
"I have four children; three of them already read on their own, so it's good to go out and read to school age children," said Hammack.
"I'm probably going to pursue the Troops-to-Teaching Program upon my retirement from military service," continued Hammack.
Sgt. 1st Class Patrick B. Stivers, Trainer Mentor, 2-307th Field Artillery Battalion, volunteering for the first time, said he looked forward to the opportunity to meet with the students.
"We just want the community to know the presence of the military at Camp Atterbury, and now that we are a permanent fixture here, we want to develop a positive public image," said Stivers.
One student in Stivers' class has a brother currently deployed in Afghanistan. Stivers took the opportunity to share a special moment with the students talking about deployments and asked for words of encouragement and well wishes for that Soldier.
After spending more than an hour with the students of East Side Elementary, both Hammack and Stivers came away feeling upbeat and ready to make another visit next month.
The 2-307th Field Artillery Battalion, an active duty unit, moved from South Carolina in 2011 to join with the 157th Infantry Brigade's mission of training mobilizing Soldiers for worldwide deployments.
"Our goals are to get out into the community and let the community get in touch with the active duty Soldiers here at Camp Atterbury. It's an opportunity to link us to the community since we've moved here from Fort Jackson. It's so rewarding for the Soldiers; It's all about being a part of the community in which you live," said Workman.