FORT LEONARD WOOD, Mo. — Three groups of educators from high schools in Oklahoma and Texas visited Fort Leonard Wood this week to learn more about the Army and career opportunities available to their students.
The three-day tour took nearly 60 teachers, counselors and administrators from Houston, Dallas and Oklahoma City to locations all over the installation in an effort to provide a well-rounded experience of the variety of training performed on Fort Leonard Wood.
“The tour was informative and I thoroughly enjoyed it,” said Lakisha Parish-Lias, a college career military readiness counselor at Nimitz High School in Irving, Texas. “There was a lot of information I did not know — there were a lot of parts of the Army I didn’t know about.”
The tour offered the opportunity for educators to interact with commanders, drill sergeants and trainees, while also providing hands-on opportunities with training equipment.
For Rebecca Schultz, a law enforcement teacher at Klein Collins High School in Spring, Texas, a lot of what she saw here could end up in her classroom in the fall.
“I really enjoyed visiting the (military police) training areas,” she said. “I was thinking of all these ideas I could take back to my students.”
After witnessing the opportunities available here in robotics, law enforcement, engineering, chemical-incident response, the medical professions and commercial-vehicle operations, many of the educators said they came away from the visit with a new-found respect for the Army.
“This has been such an eye-opening experience,” said Charlotte Thompson, a counselor at Bridgeland High School, in Cypress, Texas. “I kind of viewed (the Army) as limited in what it had to offer, and now my eyes have been opened to the unlimited possibilities for our students. I didn’t even realize there was a band — a jazz band, a rock band — all of these things I can take back to my students. My engineering students, my health science students — there are so many things. Now, as a counselor, when I have students who say, ‘I’m thinking about the military’ — before, I was hesitant, but now I think this is a good choice to make. You can create a life and really excel in the Army.”
Melissa Otero, a CCMR counselor at Irving High School, in Irving, Texas, grew up with the Army — her father was a drill sergeant at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, and Fort Benning, Georgia. She said she was impressed during this visit with the Army’s “focus on self-improvement.”
“That’s what I noticed more than anything else — the willingness to help the Soldier get to where they want to be,” she said. “As long as the Soldier is willing to work, they’re willing to help them. I was really surprised by that.”
Otero said she was also impressed with the beauty of Fort Leonard Wood while being reminded of her Army upbringing.
“I love the greenery,” she said. “I love how spread out it is. It really is a community within a community, and I’d forgotten about that.”
Thompson summed up her experience this week by saying the Army has something to offer all of our students.
“This is much bigger and it has a whole lot more to offer than I originally thought,” she said. “As counselors, the parents are looking at us. We have to be very confident in what we’re telling them. I can honestly say the Army is going to take your student and they’re going to develop them.”