SAN ANTONIO -- When Soldiers with the griffin patch on their left shoulders show up at Columbia Heights Elementary School, the children know the day is going to be special.

"They know what's coming," said Sgt. Terrence Aursby. "They really look forward to it."

For three years, Soldiers of the 717th Military Intelligence Battalion have been going to the Harlandale district school south of downtown San Antonio for three or four events during the school year. When the end of the school year approaches, the children anticipate it's time for a field day with the Soldiers.

On May 31, the Soldiers treated Columbia Heights third-, fourth- and fifth-graders to two relay races with Army-like features, a soccer game, and a lesson in carrying someone on a stretcher. Maj. Tim Hunt, battalion operations officer, said that he, Aursby and Staff Sgt. Juanita Maclauchlan organized the events and about 45 of the Soldiers ran them.

"We had a lot of volunteers from the 717th," Hunt said. "We had to turn some back."

The day's events opened with the posting of the colors in the school gymnasium by the 717th MI Battalion Honor Guard, which frequently performs ceremonies not only for the battalion but also for other units subordinate to the 470th MI Brigade. The children stood still and remained amazingly quiet during the ceremony, but as soon as the honor guard had marched out of sight, they exuberantly filed outdoors for the activities to begin.

Not everything happened outdoors, however. Inside the gym, three officers from the Department of Nutritional Medicine at Brooke Army Medical Center provided a presentation on healthy eating.

Santos Flores, the school's vice principal, noted that the field day reinforced what the school's coach emphasized to the children, that they develop healthy habits including exercise and staying active. Flores also said he was impressed with the Soldiers' community spirit.

"We really appreciate the sense of citizenship the Soldiers have," Flores said. "They are excellent role models."

The vice principal paused for an update on a disciplinary matter. He explained that because three boys had not behaved up to standards, they were to be denied participating in one of two school activities: either the field day or the end-of-the-year school dance. He said that the choice was up to them, but that all three boys had decided they would rather give up the dance than the field day.

"This is an indication of how popular the field day is," Flores said.

The Soldiers like it too.

"It's pretty fun," said Aursby, who counted this as his second field day at Columbia Heights. "I love it here."