By Jim Hughes, Fort Rucker Public AffairsJanuary 30, 2019
FORT RUCKER, Ala. -- From kicking a giant red ball while crab walking to seeking differently colored bean bags hidden under flying discs to showing off their dance moves, it was hard to tell who was having more fun -- the more than 70 Fort Rucker Elementary School students in physical education class or the four Fort Rucker firefighters on hand to help the youth with their teambuilding skills.
Not that it matters, since school staff, firefighters and students all agree this latest push into increasing the fire department's community outreach received an A+, according to Fort Rucker Elementary School physical education teacher Jim Fenn.
"Today ... it was just great. It was great for the kids to see them here and playing with them -- not just watching, but actively getting out there with them," said the 24-year veteran of the post's primary and elementary schools. "It makes the students feel like the school's important. If firemen are coming here to join and play and spend time with them, it makes the kids feel important. I think they appreciate it, and I know I appreciate it."
And the students, of course, are important, said Department of the Army civilian firefighter Lt. Scott Reid, who heads up the fire department's outreach efforts.
"We wouldn't be here if it weren't for all of the great Soldiers and families that we have here," he said. "We figured they support us all the time, so we thought we could give back a little more to support the Soldiers the way they support the fire department."
Reid and other fire department officials worked with Dr. Vicki Gilmer, Fort Rucker Elementary School and Primary School principal, to devise a plan to increase the department's presence at the school in a way that would help all involved. Reid said the plan is for at least monthly visits with the various grades at the school.
While it's nothing new for firefighters to be at the school, this is the first time anyone involved could recall department members being there to take part in activities and help teach teambuilding, and not there to instruct on fire prevention.
"This visit was more fun -- definitely different and more laid back. I think the firefighters had more fun than the kids did," Reid said of his fellow firefighters, Travis Godwin, Sam Wilks and Joe Winter. "It's fun for all of us -- we can get out in the community and help the kids at the same time. We're teaching them the teambuilding exercises and how to work as a team, rather than just giving them instructions on what to do if something bad happens with a fire or anything like that."
And that's exactly what Reid's boss, Assistant Fire Chief Shayne Brown, said he is looking for.
"Ultimately, we're trying to make a difference in the community," Brown said. "If we can reach one person when we go out, we feel like we have done something good, done something positive. If we can make one kid or adult smile, and open up to us and tell us what is going on with them, we feel like we've done our job. And kids teach us, as well. You can never be too young or too old to learn something."
Brown and Reid said the department has other plans to increase its community outreach, including working with Corvias, the post's housing contractor, for various events and activities.
"We want the community to know we're here for them," Brown said. "We support those who defend us. That saying has been around for a long time, but it's near and dear to our hearts. We want to provide the best service that we can and to let them know that any time they need us, we will be there for them to call upon."
And that sounds like a solid game plan to Fenn.
"I know these guys -- you see them at the gym, you see them all over the post," he said. "They're not just at the fire department, they're everywhere. And I think that's what a community needs, and Fort Rucker is a great community. They are welcome back any time."
Reid added that the Fort Rucker Fire Department's Station 1 offers tours to people. He said to just call 255-2217 and ask for someone from fire prevention, give them the date and time they want to visit, and they will work to get it approved, adding that the tours for all ages. "From 6-60 -- it doesn't matter to us!"