By Tim Hipps, U.S. Army Installation Management CommandJanuary 12, 2016
SAN ANTONIO (Jan. 11, 2016) -- Rarely can one pose for a photo with an Olympic bobsledder and her silver medal, or discuss Army life with a Soldier-Olympian, who competes in pistol shooting or race walking.
The U.S. Army Installation Management Command, or IMCOM, provided those opportunities Jan. 8 - 9 to visitors at the Go Army Experience at Sunset Station, staged in conjunction with the 2016 U.S. Army All-American Bowl football game for high school seniors at the Alamodome.
"I never even dreamed about getting close to Olympians," said Renwick Jones, 60, a retired Army master sergeant and Desert Storm veteran from Kansas City, Kansas. "I feel like I just met four celebrities in the military."
Jones was in town to watch his nephew, a sophomore starting quarterback at Wyandotte High School, participate in the Army All-American Bowl Combine for high school athletes auditioning for college football recruiters. He roamed to the Go Army Experience when he heard the music playing and felt the urge to explore what was happening in that parking lot.
There he found two-time Olympic and silver medalist bobsledder Sgt. Shauna Rohbock of the U.S. Army World Class Athlete Program. Jones said he "felt blessed" to touch the Olympic silver medal and discuss the sport of bobsleigh with Rohbock. He also met two-time Olympic rapid fire pistol shooter Sgt. 1st Class Keith Sanderson, a native of San Antonio, who qualified for Team USA to compete in the 2016 Rio Olympic Games, along with two-time Olympic race walker Staff Sgt. John Nunn and boxer Spc. Rianna Rios, a Texas and Colorado Golden Gloves champion.
"I had no idea what was going to happen today, and here I am," Jones said. "I thanked them all for their service and wished them luck for future success. I'm just glad to have served [in the Army] and glad to be a part of this."
Retired Sgt. 1st Class Wayne Harper, a high school JROTC instructor, accompanied two busloads of students from San Antonio Wagner High to the Go Army Experience.
"We brought about 73 cadets out today," Harper said. "The kids are very excited to be out here enjoying the festivities of the All-American Bowl just to see what activities and new technology the Army has - just to get an experience of knowing what things are available for them in their future life."
Harper, 58, said even he was surprised to learn there are bobsledders on Team Army. The 22-year Army veteran said he was quite sure his students learned even more about other opportunities in the military.
"They just think about, 'in the Army, they go off to war.' They don't understand that the folks in the Army actually have real jobs and do real things," Harper said.
He said outreach events like this are needed to keep America's youth in touch with its volunteer force.
Staff Sgt. Jaime Roman of the San Antonio Recruiting Battalion agrees. On Friday, he was in uniform and working the crowd in search of potential recruits, though he took a moment to pose for his 2016 U.S. Army All-American Bowl Most Valuable Player trading card, also courtesy of IMCOM.
Roman planned to return Saturday with his wife and young sons to further enjoy the festivities.
"I'm walking around and getting involved with the kids in the area," said Roman, 25, a native of San Antonio and a sixth-year Soldier. "But I'm getting a good taste of what I didn't know about, like the Golden Knights, All Army Sports and the World Class Athlete Program."
Roman plans to make use of those programs in his future recruiting efforts, to illustrate to students that there's more to the Army than "just joining and picking a job."
"Community relations events like this are really beneficial," said Roman, citing the importance of letting the American public see Soldiers as people, not just warriors. "It's something that benefits everybody," added Roman, who thought he might land a handful of recruits from this venue.
For the Soldier-Olympians, it was more than just posing with fans.
"A lot of the kids were impressed and really didn't understand the Army has many other things besides the 'regular units' out there, that there are numerous opportunities the Army has through Better Opportunities for Single Soldiers and MWR [Morale, Welfare and Recreation]," Nunn said. "It just enlightened them and opened their eyes.
"Though they did think it was pretty impressive the Army has actual Olympians as part of the whole Army organization," Nunn said.