By Vince Little, USACEMay 3, 2013
WIESBADEN, Germany -- Some Wiesbaden Middle School students saw what happens when military working dogs "attack" and also got a peek at engineer life recently during "Take Your Child to Work Day" at the Amelia Earhart Center.
The annual event, which took place April 25, is an educational tool that took root in the U.S. and Canada two decades ago. More than 30 students attended, including four with a deployed parent and 10 children of U.S. Army Corps of Engineers personnel.
It was organized here by Raquel Blankenhorn and Primrose Wanjiku -- a contract specialist and program analyst, respectively -- as part of the 2013 USACE Europe District Leadership Development Program.
"Today was a resounding success," Blankenhorn said. "The kids' enthusiasm for today's event was evident. They were super-engaged and interested, and they asked a lot of good questions. … They were very attentive of all the speakers and demonstrations."
The day began with a demonstration by the K-9 Unit assigned to U.S. Army Garrison Wiesbaden's Directorate of Emergency Services. Soldiers showed how the animals assist in law enforcement work, demonstrating the dogs' ability to detect drugs and explosives, navigate obstacle courses, tackle suspects and protect their handlers.
The children watched as a few USACE employees put on attack training suits to help illustrate what happens when the dogs go after an alleged criminal attempting to flee the scene, or take down an enemy combatant on the battlefield.
Later, the students stepped inside the Amelia Earhart Theater to hear presentations on Europe District construction and engineering operations.
Blankenhorn said the USACE Education and Community Outreach Program objectives, parts of which cover execution of "Take Your Child to Work Day," are aimed at optimizing district engagement with community stakeholders and sharing instructional opportunities related to science, technology, engineering and math, or STEM, along with promoting environmental awareness.
"I think we successfully achieved that objective today," she added. "At the beginning of the program this morning, about five kids raised their hand to say they were thinking about becoming engineers. At the end of the program, we asked again and that amount doubled. I believe the Corps of Engineers made a very positive impact today."
Isabella Lee, 12, a seventh-grader at Wiesbaden Middle School, said she's interested in becoming a mechanical engineer someday, perhaps even in the Army, where her father serves as a Soldier on Clay Kaserne. The visit merely heightened her curiosity.
"I like the idea of working on planes and engines and that type of thing," she said. "I really like math and science. I'm thinking this might be a good thing to explore, something I can do when I'm older as a career."
Aerospace engineering, meanwhile, would be the field of choice for sixth-grader Dawson Battles. The 11-year-old said he was invited to tag along with his friend, Oskar, the son of Kristopher Hurst, who works as chief of Europe District's Project Management Branch.
"I didn't want to be the only kid left in school today," Dawson joked. "But I'm also interested in engineering. … Ever since I was a little kid, I've been fascinated with space. I think it would be cool to create stuff in space, like spaceships and other things. Maybe in 20 or 30 years, we'll have colonies, too.
"I learned some statistics about bridges and tunnels and buildings, lots of engineering trivia."
During a district security briefing, Dawson won a USACE hat by correctly unraveling the acronym ATFP as Antiterrorism Force Protection.
"I've enjoyed myself today," he added. "A lot of people are deployed now, so it's great that they do this for us. … It's been a lot of fun."
The military working dog exhibition was a big hit with most students, including Riley Deutsch, 12, a sixth-grader at WMS.
"That was my favorite part," she said. "I enjoyed seeing the way they think and work. It was fun to watch them interact with the dogs."
Riley's father, Marine Corps Lt. Col. Paul Deutsch, is assigned to the U.S. Consulate in Frankfurt but was away in Cairo on temporary duty. She says math and science appeal to her and she liked learning about the various opportunities and jobs available within USACE.
"It's really cool what they're working on with engineering," Riley said. "I wanted to get a feel for what they do. … I learned there are all different kinds of engineers. I found out about what they do, the different projects they work on, how much money it takes and what it takes to work on them."
Lt. Col. Michelle Garcia, deputy commander, highlighted the district's overall mission for the group. Partnership is among the commander's top three priorities, she said, so it's important to interact with schools, military units and other organizations on a consistent basis.
"Europe District offices and employees are partners in many communities across the [European Command and Africa Command] footprints. We're just able to take that to the next level here because of our partnership with Wiesbaden Middle School and the larger population of employees we have in the district headquarters," Garcia said. "For the district and the employees who have the opportunity to participate in these events, it is truly uplifting. I am re-energized by the interest the kids have in the STEM topics and the enthusiasm they have for their future.
"I also appreciate the opportunity to represent the growing female population in the STEM fields. I believe it encourages girls who might be hesitant about pursuing a job in engineering to see that it is not a male-only profession."
Blankenhorn thanked the Amelia Earhart Playhouse for providing the venue and said all Europe District sections ensured the event's success by coming together to support it.
"The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is a big part of this community," she said. "We support the community through our mission to build throughout this [area of responsibility] and beyond. Some of the Corps employees also have children who attend school in the local community, so it's important for us to maintain a presence and partnership with that community."