By Emily Brainard, Army Flier staffApril 8, 2010
FORT RUCKER, Ala. -- Outside classrooms and away from flight lines, student-pilots often have additional duties they perform during their time at Fort Rucker that benefit the installation and local communities.
Students currently waiting for training in between flight school phases are placed on "casual status," according to Capt. Troy Pounds, D Company, 1st Battalion, 145th Aviation Regiment executive officer.
"This status makes them available for work outside the purview of your standard lieutenant or warrant officer," he said.
While on casual status, Soldiers may be assigned to work a plethora of duties around Fort Rucker. Tasks include administrative and office positions and funeral details. Commissioned officers may be detailed as temporary executive officers for companies without them.
"(These officers) work for a commander and assist him or her while also getting real-world experience in TRADOC (Training and Doctrine Command)," Pounds said.
In addition to assigned details, many flight school students choose to perform volunteer work in the Wiregrass.
Some servicemembers tutor middle and high school students on the weekends, while others conduct civic missions in local cities. For example, Soldiers oversaw the "snow zone" at Dothan's Downtown Christmas festival in December and renovated the Hawk-Houston Boys and Girls Club earlier this year.
More than 100 Soldiers participated in last year's Peanut Festival parade, Pounds said, showcasing the unit's support for the Wiregrass community.
Whatever duty Soldiers may choose to work or are assigned, they are benefitting both professionally and personally from their experiences, Pounds noted.
"(Because) holds are unavoidable, it is good we're able to utilize these lieutenants' and warrant officers' time in a way that benefits their professional development and the Fort Rucker communities," he said.
D Co.'s 1st Lt. Eric Smith works in the Tax Center at Bldg. 5700 scheduling appointments, signing in clients, answering questions and performing other administrative tasks.
"I like multi-tasking, taking care of Soldiers and making sure people get their needs met," he said.
While Smith prepares to begin the Initial Entry Rotary Wing course, he said he's gaining officer and life skills at the Tax Center. He added learning about general tax information will help him prepare his own returns in future years, and he's also discovered Army Family resources he'll share with Soldiers he leads in the future.
WO1s Sean Griffith, Francisco Granda and Pamela Coleman, all of B Co., 1st Bn., 145th Avn. Regt., work together in the garrison communications office, meeting the installation's information technology needs.
Griffith and Granda said they have prior IT industry experience, which is why they chose to volunteer for their jobs. All three said they derive satisfaction from filling in wherever the regular staff needs them.
"We help with the small stuff so they can focus on the big picture," Coleman said.
Further giving back to the community, the three assisted in set up, break down and directing traffic at the Fort Rucker Community Spouses Club Hollyday Mart held in Daleville last November.
While they help keep the post running smoothly, many of their duties go unnoticed. Most Soldiers, however, aren't in it for praise.
Their hard work was noticed by Kim Krogh, Hollyday Mart co-chairperson.
"It's really nice those (students) can come out and help when you have something that large (and) you need so many hands to make it work. When you have a group like that who can take charge of something, you don't have to worry about it," she said. "I think it's important for anybody and everybody to volunteer."
The student-pilots said they appreciate a chance to positively influence the Wiregrass while they train here.
"Fort Rucker is important to us. As Aviators, we'll be coming back here. It's a sense of pride to help the home of Army Aviation," Granda said.
"Giving back gives you a sense of accomplishment," Griffith added.
Before beginning the OH-58D Kiowa Warrior course recently, WO1 Benjamin Anderson, also with B Co., was assigned to a funeral detail for several months. Group members drilled about two hours each weekday, he said, practicing duties like the traditional flag folding and familiarizing themselves with funeral routines for veterans, retirees and fallen active-duty Soldiers.
He said the funeral detail, while often hard work and performed on short notice, has its perks.
"This (detail) has high visibility," he said. "There's a lot of interaction in the local community, in Florida and Alabama. It's respectful to the servicemembers, and the Families appreciate it."