By Nathan Pfau, Army Flier Staff WriterJune 24, 2016
FORT RUCKER, Ala. (June 24, 2016) -- Many people say that volunteers are the backbone of a community, and that sentiment certainly rings true in the military community.
Soldiers from the NCO Academy took time June 11 for some selfless service to help one of the most frequented spots not only on Fort Rucker, but also throughout south Alabama -- the U.S. Army Aviation Museum.
Students and instructors, from SLC Class 004-16, as well as senior leaders, took part in a volunteer effort to help complete the exhibit foundations for a World War II and Korean War diorama to be displayed in the museum.
"We were in a bind here (in regards to the foundation for the exhibit)," said Robert Mitchell, museum curator. "Kayla Sutterfield, museum volunteer (and daughter) of Command Sgt. Maj. Micheal D. Sutterfield (1st Aviation Brigade command sergeant major), suggested that we get some volunteers from one of the NCO courses. And, sure enough, they volunteered to come help out. They really got us out of a pickle."
Mitchell said that the group of about 10 Soldiers, including the 1st Avn. Bde. CSM and his daughter, completed about two weeks of work in a little over two hours, which included putting down plywood and reinforcing the foundation for the new diorama.
Sgt. 1st Class Eric Kahle, NCOA, and his son, Harvey, were among those to help out on the exhibit. For Kahle, it was all about giving back to his community.
"Every cycle we have students go out into the community and get involved by doing volunteer projects to show them how to take this back to their units and be a part of their community," he said. "Mr. Mitchell reached out to us and my class was looking to find a volunteer project to work on, and this came along, so they jumped (at the opportunity)."
"This gets our unit out there, and not just our unit, but Fort Rucker," said Kahle. "We just want to show people that we care what goes on in the community just as much as in our units."
The new exhibit will show a depiction of two aircraft of the first helicopter rescue mission in the jungles of Burma during World War II, as well as an exhibit of an H-19 helicopter on a mountain top resupply mission during the Korean War, said the curator.
The current exhibit isn't gone, but moved to a new location to create a chronological flow of time throughout the museum as patrons walk through.
"What's going to go in its place is a 10,000-pound H-19 helicopter, so the problem was that we had to reinforce the entire pedestal that it was going to be sitting on, so not only did the Soldiers re-deck the pedestal that the new exhibit will sit on, but they had to go underneath it and build stanchions to support where the landing gear is going to rest -- there was just a lot going on," said Mitchell.
The entire process was a huge success because of the help from the Soldiers of the NCOA, he said, adding that the exhibit is slated to be complete by early August after a few more decisions are made on what materials to use for the base.
"The support we get from Soldiers is invaluable," said Mitchell. "They're eager, they're hard working, they're dedicated and they're interested in preserving their history, so anytime we can get Soldiers involved is absolutely as good as it gets."
The other Soldiers involved with the project were: Sgt. 1st Class Jay Wilhelm, Sgt. 1st Class Karissa Maradol, Sgt. 1st Class John Staudacher, Staff Sgt. Justin Hammond, Staff Sgt. Kevin Page, Staff Sgt. Matthew Samuelson, Staff Sgt. Derek Pollock and Staff Sgt. Jarin Trakel -- all from the NCOA.
With the aid of these Soldiers, Mitchell said that the museum is able to display the many facets of Army Aviation's rich history.