NOLANVILLE, Texas (Sept. 21, 2016) -- Soldiers are invaluable members of their civilian communities, and partnerships formed between Army units and local communities serve as a bridge to the growing civilian-military divide. As part of their connection with the City of Nolanville, "Blue Watch" Soldiers with the Fort Hood-based 163rd Military Intelligence Battalion, 504th Military Intelligence Brigade, conducted an interactive Physical Readiness Training demonstration during the city's Train Whistle Jamboree, Sept. 17.
While Soldiers stationed at Fort Hood are not necessarily from the state of Texas, it is important for Soldiers to connect with the communities that support them as a mutual relationship, said the training's Noncommissioned Officer-in-Charge.
"We're a part of the communities of Nolanville, Copperas Cove, Harker Heights, and Killeen," said Staff Sgt. Vald Volvaire, a NCO with A Company, 163rd Military Intelligence Battalion. "We want to let the community know, even though we're Soldiers and a lot of us are not born and raised here, we do support the community and want to do our part and support the community functions."
As the Jamboree started, teams of 163rd Soldiers enlisted young attendees to participate in the 30-minute physical training demonstrations. Stressing the importance of physical fitness and health and wellness across the Army, the Soldier teams conducted stretching exercises, along with strength and conditioning drills with the youths. Although they appeared nervous initially, the participating children were visibly enthusiastic -- if not a little worn out -- by the demonstration's end.
For Spc. Garrett Hughes, who served as one of the Soldier demonstrators, the opportunity to bond with participants made the PRT demonstration all worth it.
"I did have one little girl come up to me and tell me that she thanks us for our service, and she wants to be in the military one day and that her stepdad is also serving," Hughes said. "She really enjoyed it and came back by a few minutes later just to tell us once again how much she enjoyed it."
Hughes said a goal of the training was breaking the notion that Soldiers aren't "just sitting inside the base doing (their) job," but actually have much fun in their daily missions and operations.
"Some people may see the military as being scary, but I want to show them the fun side of it too," Spc. Hughes said.
Staff Sgt. Volvaire explained another training objective was building trust, not only by the kids, but also through the community of Nolanville. The unit's partnership with Nolanville serves a two-fold purpose.
"For the younger generation to see us as role models and to set an example for the next generation to join the military," Volvaire said. "If we expect the community support, we have to support the community. It's a give and take relationship."
The 163rd Military Intelligence Battalion has partnered with the City of Nolanville and Nolanville Elementary School for over a year. Soldiers with the battalion voluntarily tutor elementary school students every Friday at the school for three hours, according to Chief Warrant 2 Jeffrey Henry, an Operational Management Team Leader in B Company, 163rd Military Intelligence Battalion, and the battalion's volunteer coordinator and community liaison. The battalion also participated in the city's First Responders Holiday Parade and the 2015 Train Whistle Jamboree.
Henry said the City of Nolanville invited the battalion to participate, and provided land space for the battalion to set up the PRT area and a nearby informational booth at the Jamboree. He said the battalion wanted to promote a strong, positive Army message and "represent what the Army is about."
"Since we do (Physical Readiness Training) every day, and everyone's always interested in what it is like to be a Soldier, we figured (the training) would be a good way to get the community involved and give them an understanding of what we do," Henry said.
The Soldiers also hosted an information booth with pamphlets on healthy eating and dieting, a pamphlet on conducting the Physical Readiness Training drills, and even a weeklong calendar handout laying out each day of exercises for a civilian youth or adult to use.