SAN ANTONIO, Texas -- The scores of happy young voices reverberating outside Bowden Elementary School probably sounded more excited than on other days when Soldiers of the 470th Military Intelligence Brigade conducted the school's field day there April 5.
The field day highlighted the Soldiers' partnership with the school through the Joint Base San Antonio Adopt-a-School program. Since last fall, about 10 brigade Soldiers have been going from Fort Sam Houston to visit the nearby school on most Fridays during the lunch period.
Although the Soldiers are assigned as mentors to specific fifth graders, the lunchtime setting allows for interaction among the Soldiers and a number of students of different grades.
"We usually arrive in the cafeteria about 10 minutes before the fifth graders," said Sgt. 1st Class Sandra Hocking, who has been coordinating brigade activities with the school. "The younger children always ask us a lot of questions.
"They initially asked us about our uniform, especially our patches," Hocking continued. "There is a lot of interest in what we do."
Over lunch, the fifth-graders talk with the Soldiers about how their school week has been going and sometimes about their homes and families.
"The 45 minutes goes by pretty fast," said Hocking. "But some of the Soldiers say it's the best part of their week."
Guadalupe Diaz, Bowden's principal, said it was time well spent.
"It's important for the children to have good, adult role models who demonstrate responsibility and integrity," Diaz explained. "We [the school] can provide the academics, the activity, the tutoring, … but we also need to provide that kind of mentorship. The Soldiers encourage them to be here [at school], to be on time and to be respectful."
The April 5field day gave more Soldiers and all the children at Bowden Elementary an opportunity to spend half a day together.
"The [San Antonio Independent] School District allows us a regular field day," Diaz said. "The Soldiers took it to another level. It's a great experience for the children."
Field day activities included a short Army-style physical training warm-up, an obstacle course and a "rescue mission." This last activity involved a short course that four children ran with a stretcher to pick up a "simulated" casualty (a stuffed bag in a shirt), return it to their starting point, then run in relays to the other end to pick up items and place them in a back pack and return.
The obstacle course consisted of five pushups, crawling through a box, jumping over a box, crawling under a camouflage net, stepping through hoops, and picking up and carrying small boxes to the end.
Soldiers timed the teams on both courses and awarded special prizes to the top three teams in each. However, they saw to it that all participants took home a small prize.
"I think we really helped the children learn teamwork, coordination and concentration," said Spc. Elijah Cavazos, one of the mentors, about the field day activities. But he said every visit to the school was rewarding.
"Every time we walk in, they treat us like rock stars," Cavazos said. "They are all very appreciative of us coming."