FORT LEE, Va. - Twenty three Army Reserve and National Guard students enrolled in the 94th Training Division's Quartermaster Senior Leadership Course, took time out of their grueling 17 week class schedule to help the nonprofit Holiday Helper Association Toy Store prepare for the holidays.
"They're just motivated, they do what you tell them to do and don't hesitate," said Carlton Branch, a retired Army command sergeant major, who's the association's vice president. "That's what Soldiers are all about, and I love it."
During the shopping period, Wounded Warriors and eligible lower ranking service members stationed here will be able pick out presents and gift certificates for their children, free of charge.
The opportunity to volunteer enabled the students to deviate from the seven day a week routine of the SLC, which is conducted at The Army School System Training Center Fort Lee.
"The walls were starting to close in, so the opportunity to come out here and help our fellow Soldiers and help the kids...doesn't get any better," said Sgt. 1st Class Timothy Devoy, a New Jersey National Guard member assigned to the 114th Infantry Division.
Sgt. 1st Class Dogood Efenogo, a National Guard member assigned to 405th Brigade Support Battalion's headquarters company, said the effort was a good morale builder for him and his classmates.
"It got everyone out of the class room, including the instructors," he said. "We interacted and got to know each other better."
The course curriculum emphasizes leadership, so Sgt. 1st Class Willie Nelson III, an Army Reserve Soldier, who's also the TASS Non-Commissioned Officer in charge, said volunteering enables Soldiers to be community leaders as well as military leaders. He said, he wants the students to use the experience to organize volunteer efforts at their home units that'll benefit their communities.
"A lot of National Guard and Reserve units are located in the communities, but the communities don't know that the units are there," Nelson said. "They [the students] need to let them know... we're here and this is just as much our community as it is yours."