By Lyna Tucker, Fort Eustis Wheel PhotojournalistOctober 21, 2009
FORT EUSTIS, Va. (October 21, 2009) -- Unlike the bumbling and crafty men of the classic television series "F Troop," Soldiers from Fort Eustis' own "F Troop" - F Company, 1-222nd
Aviation Regiment at Fort Eustis - are not the misfits of the Army.
In fact, these Soldiers demonstrate those traits from which great leaders are born: selflessness, integrity and initiative. These traits are tangibly evident in their volunteer activities at the installation's Child and Youth Services Center courtyard and Dutrow Elementary School in Newport News.
About 50 Soldiers - nearly one-third of the unit - routinely participate in volunteer activities on post and in the local community under the leadership of Sgt. 1st Class Sunday Wooden, an F Co. platoon sergeant who said that what started out as a simple exercise in selflessness has grown into a unit-level, community-oriented project.
"Honestly, it started out as a way to teach the Soldiers that it's not all about 'me' and to teach them a team concept." Wooden said. "Now, it's something that sets them apart, but at the same time, they're helping other people," she added.
The volunteer project began in July with block volunteer hours on Thursday and Friday from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.; in August, the schedule decreased to Fridays only. Since the initiative began, each participating Soldier has averaged about 150 individual volunteer hours and about 7,500 volunteer hours logged for the unit as a whole.
The Soldiers' volunteer hours are submitted to the Fort Eustis Volunteer Coordinator and each Soldier receives the Military Outstanding Volunteer Service Medal upon graduation. The medal is awarded to sevice members who demonstrate exceptional volunteer service to the civilian and military community that is significant and tangible in nature and reflects favorably on the military community.
The first project was the cleaning and painting of the courtyard at the Fort Eustis Youth Services Center, Bldg. 1102 on Pershing Avenue. The Soldiers put in about 200 hours raking, sweeping and painting the center's courtyard with materials supplied by the center.
"They gave us the supplies and were like, 'Do whatever,'" said Pvt. Branden Giembusz, who helped paint the CYS logo on the barbeque. "Before this, finger painting was pretty much the extent of my painting experience," Giembusz added.
A unique aspect of the initiative is that the program is a three-shift program.
"We have students that go to classes in three shifts, so a lot of them do their volunteer work after their classes and Soldiering duties are complete, making three volunteer shifts," said Wooden.
With the project at the CYS complete, the Soldiers began looking for other outlets for their volunteering yen.
Since Wooden's daughters attend Dutrow Elementary School, a magnet elementary in the Newport News school district, Wooden checked with the school to see what need the Soldiers could fill there, and the unit's Soldiers were granted the opportunity to prepare for and work at the school's upcoming International Day celebration.
The Soldiers began work on the project Oct. 2 when they visited the school and began cutting paper and string for the arts and crafts tables during the event.
As the Soldiers began preparing the paper and yarn, Dutrow principal Marquerite Pittman stopped by to welcome them to the school.
"I just want to say welcome and thank you for coming here today. What you're doing is appreciated so much by the teachers and students here at Dutrow," Pittman said.
Pittman later elaborated on her appreciation for the Soldiers' service.
"Our school's about doing for others and seeing them (the Soldiers) reinforces that on a different level. I'm so proud of them, the students and our military," she said.
As Soldiers in an all-volunteer force, the Soldiers already provide service to their community, but for the F Co. Soldiers, this is just another way to serve their country.
"It's nice to get out and help the community," said Spc. Ryan Schwend.
Pvt. Patrick Shaw agrees adding, "It makes the Army look good, too."