KAHUKU, Hawaii--More than 30 Soldiers from the 524th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion, 25th Sustainment Brigade, participated in a campus maintenance project at Kahuku High and Intermediate School, Jan. 9. The project was a chance for troops to give back and get involved with their local community.
"The purpose of us volunteering today was to lay the groundwork for a relationship with the students and staff at Kahuku," said 2nd Lt. Kyle Gaines, the 524th CSSB project coordinator. "We are trying to do an event every quarter and this was our first visit."
Soldiers spent the morning repainting the outside of the school, pressure washing the walkways, and cutting the grass in surrounding areas. The upkeep assistance is part of the Partnership of Ohana, an island-wide program initiated by USARHAW to encourage U.S. service members to connect with communities across Oahu. Volunteer activities can include community and school events, maintenance activities, tutoring, and help with career education.
"What we help them with could be anything from restoration or beautifying the campus, to a mentorship-type program," said Gaines. "We wanted to connect with the faculty first because they know their students the best and can tell us what they would like to see happen."
"We felt that our campus was looking a little neglected," said Vice Principle IkaIka Plunkett. "We wanted to tackle some of these issues ourselves and the manual effort of the 25th Sustainment Brigade volunteers was a good place to start."
Plunkett emphasized his support in seeing the program take off.
"The thing that interests me the most is building mentorship opportunities. Connecting Soldiers with students helps with career or post high school education and can influence their future," he said. "Soldiers set a good example for our students."
When asked about their personal reasons for getting involved, the Soldiers were eager to explain why community service is significant to them.
"Volunteering is important because it puts us out there," said Pfc. Marisol Medellin. "It gives students a chance to see us as people behind the uniform and shows them that Soldiers do more than just go out and fight wars."
Others see volunteering in the community as a way to give back to the communities and get to know their neighbors and the Hawaiian culture.
"Community service for Soldiers provides a lot of personal growth," said Capt. Antoine Parker, commander of the 540th Quartermaster Company. "They have a chance to form relationships they might not otherwise form and it helps them see how giving back is part of service."