Approximately 30 Soldiers with the 86th Expeditionary Signal Battalion, 1st Armored Division Artillery, 1st Armored Division, volunteered to judge the annual science fair at Bill Childress Elementary School February 3, 2017 in Vinton, Texas.Soldiers were invited to participate as judges during the event as a part of the Partners in Education program, where Soldiers interact with the community and local schools outside Fort Bliss.The program aims to build relationships between the U.S. Army and America's educators to help develop the youth into future leaders and productive citizens of the nation."We connected at the partners for education and we did some coordination of what type of events we could come and support them with," said Lt. Col. Nicole Vinson, 86th ESB Battalion Commander.The 86th ESB is composed of Soldiers who are skilled in operating and maintaining satellites, radios, signal and other communication systems, which makes the science fair common ground for the unit and the school."The science fair matches our background of communications," said Vinson. "The Soldiers are really excited about science so it makes the perfect connection to be judges at this science fair."Additionally, Soldiers were given the opportunity to reach out to the community and experience a change of environment outside their regular work area."It's more about the human aspect of them [Soldiers] as a person, instead of just being in the Army," said Vinson. "I think it allows them to reach out and reconnect with the community and see that there's more out here than just what's on Fort Bliss."
During the event, Soldiers were able to mingle with students and see various research projects that the 7 to 10-year-olds created."We came out to judge the Science Fair of Bill Childress Elementary School and build the Army relationship with the community," said Staff Sgt. Vidal Whitlow, multichannel transmission systems operator and maintainer assigned to Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 86th ESB. "I rarely go off post, so by interacting with the children and the faculty allows me to have a firsthand experience of what the community is like."Along with the community outreach, Soldiers also reminisced on their own childhood memories.Whitlow explained how one of the science projects on how celery stalks absorb water caught his attention. For him, it is a project that brought back memories of how he was as a child and wonders on how things work.
"It gave me the refreshing memory of how childhood was and bring back the perspective of the simplest things we learned as young kids in school," said Whitlow. "The experiments we judged and learned from are a breath of fresh air."