By Nathan Pfau, Army Flier Staff WriterNovember 3, 2016
FORT RUCKER, Ala. -- Students at Fort Rucker Elementary School got the chance to see history come to life as Soldiers, clad in uniforms from various conflicts in American history, provided lessons that gave both a mutual learning experience.
Soldiers of the Headquarters Headquarters Company, 1st Battalion, 212th Aviation Regiment, put on a living history demonstration Oct. 28 at the elementary school for nearly 130 fifth and sixth graders as a means to impart knowledge to students but also gain leadership skills, according to Capt. Robert Sprague, HHC, 1-212th Avn. Regt. commander.
"We do professional development each month and we decided instead of doing a classroom-type lecture, to let the Soldiers get a topic and go out and teach it to somebody, and we figured that the fifth and six graders would be the best group to do it with," he said. "I want the Soldiers to get a joy for learning their lineage -- where U.S. Army Soldiers come from -- and I just want the kids to learn a bit of history and to enjoy it."
Throughout the process, six different stations were set up where Soldiers donned period-appropriate gear to teach students about the different conflicts throughout American history, including the Revolutionary War, the War of 1812, the Civil War, World War I, World War II and the Vietnam War.
During the demonstration, students had the opportunity to learn about things from what the Soldiers ate, how they slept and lived, to how they loaded and fired their weapons during battles.
Each Soldier was able to choose their particular time period they wanted to teach and, in doing so, had to prepare their own research and material. For Spc. William Johnson, HHC, 1-212th Avn. Regt., it was the Civil War he chose to teach about -- a conflict he said has always piqued his interest.
"I chose the Civil War because that was the most interesting to me, not to say that the other conflicts weren't just as important," he said. "The war had a lot to do with the abolition of slavery, so that was a big interest for me."
For Spc. Jonathan Addis, HHC, 1-212th Avn. Regt., it was the Revolutionary War that he got the chance to teach children about. He chose that particular war because of its importance in shaping the country.
"(The war) was about the process of defecting from England and creating our own democracy. The fact that we had to fight tooth and nail to gain our independence gives me a more inspired view of the life of a Soldier and what they had to do to accomplish their mission," he said.
Although the living history demonstration was a great learning experience for the students, it was also an important lesson for the Soldiers, as well, who had to research for a month or more to get ready for the event.
"I've been researching this for at least the last month just trying to get the facts that are interesting for the children -- it was a lot of reading and researching," said Johnson. "Going through this process, I learned a lot about not only (the Civil War), but the others, as well.
"It also gave me the opportunity to learn how to talk to kids, because this is brand new to me," he said. "I've never done anything like this before, and I learned that you can never be too prepared -- I learned a lot through the process. I think this was an easy way for me to learn to speak in front of not just kids, but people in general."
Addis, who has a 5-year-old daughter of his own, said that although he is used to talking to children, speaking and teaching to 20-30 students at a time can be a daunting task, but well worth the effort if he's able to give them a memorable learning experience.
"We get out here and get to show the kids that this is where the Army started off and this is how far we've come so far," he said. "It's humbling to see that the kids are learning a lot, so for me to be able to come out here and to be able to teach these kids facts is really fulfilling."