FORT SILL, Okla. (Aug. 15, 2016) -- For the 21st year, Fort Sill committed units to work with local schools with the signing of the Army Partnership with Local Area Schools, or APLAS agreement, Aug. 5, at the Fort Sill Conference Center.

The pact provides volunteer Fort Sill Soldiers, Marines and civilians to mentor and tutor students and to help with school projects.

The commanding general, garrison commander and leaders from every brigade, command and the Marine Detachment attended the signing.

"Thank you from all of us," said Maj. Gen. Brian McKiernan, Fires Center of Excellence and Fort Sill commanding general, to the dozens of teachers, administrators, principals and superintendents. "I know that there's nobody in this room who doesn't remember an influential teacher, someone who profoundly touched their lives.

"We are who we are because of folks who make lasting impacts on us during our formative years, and that's you."

Brenda Spencer-Ragland, Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation director, said APLAS consists of four programs: mentorship, unit-school partnerships, leadership and parental involvement. It supports students' future success academically and physically to become model citizens.
The general noted that 80 percent of Soldiers live off post and their children go to community schools.

"We are invested personally in the quality of education that those students get," McKiernan said.
During the ceremony, McKiernan and FCoE and Fort Sill Command Sgt. Maj. Carl Fagan and about a dozen superintendents signed the symbolic, oversized APLAS document. The certificate was also signed by the garrison commander and his CSM.

To formalize the partnership between schools and the military units, each school principal along with their unit command team leader signed individual APLAS agreements, Spencer-Ragland said. A framed copy of the school's APLAS agreement will be displayed at the units and the schools.

The FMWR director read a portion of the APLAS certificate of agreement: "Together, we the Fires Center of Excellence and Fort Sill and the local area schools are committed to the future of our children. Through a co-operative effort we will stand as strong and ready partners, dedicated to working together to improve the citizenship and learning experiences of children in Southwest Oklahoma's elementary, middle and high schools."

Because of the effective APLAS partnerships, this year and for the fourth time, Fort Sill received the Pete Taylor Award of Excellence in Education. "We are very proud of our efforts," Spencer-Ragland said.

One of the highlights of Fort Sill APLAS is that it offered an enhanced math and science curriculum to more than 2,300 students through Oklahoma Starbase and the Summer Escape science program, she said. This resulted in a 10-point increase in math and science scores for children who had attended those programs.

And, Lawton Public School's Freedom Elementary School was the first and only school on an installation to achieve gold-level status in the Alliance for a Healthier Generation by the Office of the Secretary of Defense, she said.

Before the afternoon APLAS signing, many of the educators spent the morning with drill sergeants in the 434th Field Artillery Brigade learning about basic combat training.