Award winners
Sgt. Justin Brown, Sgt. Marcus Brown, Sgt. Harper Horton and Staff Sgt. Michael Diehr, 1st "Tiger" Squadron, 3rd Cavalry Regiment, pose for a photograph after winning the Rising to Excellence Award in a virtual ceremony at Fort Hood, Texas, July 20. (Photo Credit: 1st Lt. William Rueckert, 1st Sqdn., 3rd Cav. Regt.) VIEW ORIGINAL

FORT HOOD, Texas - The National Association of Volunteer Programs in Local Government recognized 1st Squadron, 3rd Cavalry Regiment and the Cen-Tex Sustainable Communities Partnership as winners of the Rising to Excellence Award during a virtual ceremony here, July 20.

Fort Hood is the first military installation to win a NAVPLG award.

The NAVPLG awards recognize excellence in the field of volunteer management in city and county governments. Mary Lynn Perry, president of NAVPLG, shared the organization’s mission is to strengthen volunteer programs through leadership, education, advocacy, networking and information exchange.

“There are so many unsung heroes – people who volunteer their time and skills to make their communities better. So often their efforts go unnoticed,” Perry said. “With the NAVPLG Awards we hope to shine a national spotlight on the work being done in cities and counties to build stronger bonds between people and to lift up those in need.”

The volunteer service of Tiger Squadron and the Cen-Tex Partnership started last summer and continued into the school year to create an outdoor greenspace to improve the well-being, learning and play experiences of students at Thomas Arnold Elementary. An area of the garden was restored as a vegetable garden and commemorated as the Kathi Walrath Memorial Garden. Other portions of the garden were revitalized and feature a pumpkin patch, pollinator beds and a hummingbird bed.

Garden plot
Troopers from 1st "Tiger" Squadron, 3rd Cavalry Regiment, prepare a garden plot for use by students of Thomas Arnold Elementary School in Salado, Texas, June 11, 2021. Tiger Squadron, along with the Cen-Tex Sustainable Communities Partnership, received the Rising to Excellence Award in a virtual ceremony at Fort Hood, Texas, July 20. (Photo Credit: Christine Luciano, Fort Hood DPW Environmental) VIEW ORIGINAL

“I would like to thank NAVPLG for recognizing the Soldiers for all the work they did. I thank working with Cen-Tex and the Adopt-a-School program,” Lt. Col. Russell Thomas, commander of 1st Sqdn., 3rd Cav. Regt., said. “The sustainable initiatives are in line with what the Army wants to do and it was great to help build that community and was a win-win for all and rewarding for our Soldiers and rewarding for the students.”

Awardees included Staff Sgt. Michael Diehr, Sgt. Justin Brown, Sgt. Marcus Brown, Sgt. Harper Horton and Lt. Col. Russell Thomas from Tiger Squadron and Cen-Tex Partnership representatives from Fort Hood and Copperas Cove.

“These were the main guys that were out there most of the time,” Diehr said, as he pointed to his peers. “I would like to also thank Thomas Arnold Elementary. It was a fun time, and I had no idea we would share that much laughter out there. It was a great time and a really humbling experience for us.”

Perry encouraged other communities to explore military partnerships and leverage those connections to build impactful relationships.

“Working with the military is a wonderful opportunity,” she said. “A lot of people don’t think to contact the local military base but many times there is someone who is coordinating community outreach and they are looking for ways to be involved in their communities.”

For more information about the Cen-Tex Partnership and volunteer opportunities, visit