FORT BELVOIR, Va. (Army News Service, March 15, 2007) - Talking about mentorship and giving back to the community has always been fashionable discussion in military culture. The U.S. Army Rapid Equipping Force, headquartered at Fort Belvoir, Va., is doing more than just talking.

The REF recently partnered with Washington, D.C.'s Ballou Senior High School to provide mentorship and instruction in support of its after-school robotics program.

Soldiers, civilians and contract personnel from the science and engineering fields have volunteered their skills, talents and after-duty time to coach the students gearing up to compete in the 2007 Chesapeake FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) Regional Robotics Competition today through Saturday at the U.S. Naval Academy Halsey Field House in Annapolis, Md.

"I enjoyed working with the students," said Dave Simon, an REF analyst who presented a seminar on mechanical engineering at Ballou in the first week of the partnership. "Presenting workshops and providing mentorship is an excellent way to help expose these students to careers in science and math."

Ballou's relationship with the REF began last fall when Vice Chief of Staff of the Army Gen. Richard A. Cody visited the school to announce the selection of student Marvin Austin as one of the first 2007 Army All-Americans. Austin played in the nationally televised Army All-American Bowl held in San Antonio, Texas, in January.

During his visit, Cody saw the potential for pairing students with one of the Army's key science and technology programs.

"This is a worthwhile partnership," said Col. Greg Tubbs, REF director. "I remember how my life changed as a young man when someone from the Army told me that there was no limit to what I could accomplish, and I believed them. Today, I have two master's degrees. We'd like to be that positive influence for these students' lives."

Ballou is one of six D.C. high schools to participate in the competition.

"We had a great visit on the week I visited the school. I was very impressed with the students' enthusiasm to learn," said Rebecca Schwartz Perlman, Ph.D., an REF science and technology advisor. "It was great to do that type of work again and teach them some tricks of the trade."