By Ms. Elyssa Vondra (Fort Jackson)August 9, 2018
From dogs to drones, this year's National Night Out had it all. Despite rain, the show went on Aug 7.
For the past 35 years, Fort Jackson has hosted the annual event. Even a thunderstorm earlier in the afternoon couldn't prevent the tradition's continuation.
The event acts as a means of fostering a positive relationship between the community and law enforcement.
"It brings the community," said School Resource Officer Lionel Brown. "I like to look at it as unity in the community. That's all it's about, these little ones you see out here."
It gives kids, who could be police officers one day, a more realistic perspective of what cops are like, he added.
It allows children to "see another side" of police officers, said DeVonda Summers, director of Outreach Services.
The event portrays them in a different light. It shows kids on post that members of law enforcement are just people and neighbors too. They're not to be feared.
Fort Jackson isn't alone in the endeavor to bring law enforcement and the community together.
Towns and cities across the nation participate.
Still, the National Night Out at Fort Jackson is unique.
Police already have a great relationship with the community here, Summers said. That makes the process easier.
With each passing year, the Fort Jackson event has grown. Post officials expected the 2018 rendition to be the biggest yet.
Family members -- young and old -- came out to partake in the activities.
This year's event was complete with a military working dog demonstration, a drunk goggle and identity kit activity, and a drone demonstration.
Kids hopped on four-wheeled bicycles with drunk glasses and tried to maneuver their way through cones. Others found walking in a straight line to be a challenge.
"Everything's in a different area," said Traelyn Allen, one of the kids who tried the simulation and struggled to keep upright. "Now I know not to drink after this."
Overhead, one of Fort Jackson's drones hovered. Brown described it as a working, multifunctional drone.
Its ability to take videos and still shots is used when there is flooding. It can monitor water levels so officers don't have to be sent to the sites in question -- a potentially dangerous task.
It's also a valuable resource when there are accidents, suspicious vehicles and down soldiers, he added. Beyond that, drones are used every week during graduation ceremonies -- both to monitor for potential crime and to take photos.
"You can get a lot of information from a drone … it's priceless," Brown said.
Trained canine forces also showed off their skills during the National Night Out.
Nero, a new dog to the team, demonstrated basic command-following and jumped over some hurdles. But not without a bit of a challenge.
"We get asked if we ever get bit," his handler said. It happens "all the time."
Dory, a more seasoned veteran military working dog who served a 19-month stint in Afghanistan revealed her refined skills.
She found a substance used in explosives hidden in one paint can set in a line of cans.
Even adding up all the fun from the night, the event is more than the sum of its parts.
The National Night Out has a positive impact on the community because it highlights Fort Jackson as the "safer and caring neighborhood" that it is, Summers said.
Summers's department, Child & Youth Services, is one of many that made the event possible.
The Morale Welfare and Recreation Department; the Police Division; and the Army Community Service all played roles in putting on the show.