By Lacey Justinger, U.S. Army Garrison-Hawaii Public AffairsMay 7, 2010
SCHOFIELD BARRACKS, Hawaii - A deluge of preschoolers, toddlers and pre-toddlers ran smiling and shrieking amongst big Army trucks parked at the Child Development Center parking lot, here, April 27, during "Wheels Day."
Ten Soldiers from Company D, 2nd Battalion, 35th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division, seemingly braced for battle as the children clambered onto the Soldiers' legs and trustingly lifted their tiny arms in a bid to be picked up and gently placed into the laps of the Soldiers.
"The battalion is embracing Month of the Military Child with anything we can do to help out and support local kids," said 1st Sgt. Matthew Bartel. "We have Soldiers reading books at different centers and just out there meeting kids.
"I have children, so I feel it is important to show kids what their parents do, and kids really enjoy big trucks," Bartel added. "It's fun to put smiles on kids' faces."
Staff at the CDC planned Wheels Day as an intregal Month of the Military Child calendar event and contacted the battalion for support.
Instead of tasking the event to another unit, Bartel volunteered the services and supplies from his company.
"This is a good opportunity for the children as all their parents are all in the military, so they get to see firsthand what their parents do," said Tiffini Taylor, lead teacher in the toddler classroom.
"This event is important since Soldiers' children are different from civilian children because civilian children don't have to deal with their parents being gone for months or even a year at a time," said Pfc. Chris Clifford.
"The sooner these kids realize what their family is a part of, the Army as a whole, the easier it will be for them as they get older," Clifford added.
The company brought two humvees, one equipped with an improved target acquisition system, or ITAS, and a medium tactical vehicle, as well as a table full of gas masks, Meals Ready to Eat and radios for children to have a fun hands-on experience.
Spc. Jake Clawson granted the ultimate seal of approval to the day's activities and stated, "When I was a kid, this would have been cool to see and do."
"It's good to see the smiling kids' faces and hear their laughter," said Spc. Christopher Hammond. "This takes some of the stress away from our jobs to come out and have fun with the kids."
Some children really took to the "big kids' toys," refusing to remove their gas masks or disembark from their prime spot in the powerful driver's seat, with all the knobs and buttons they actually could touch and play with - without being scolded of course, while other children were scared by the loud horns and hulking frames.
Spc. William Johnson sat in the driver's seat of a humvee and tirelessly lifted the little tykes into his lap to start the vehicle, turn on the blinkers, honk the horn and turn on the fan.
"This is the only place I have seen kids interact with the big Army vehicles," he said.
Spc. Ryan Rumler is a new addition to the unit, but he held his own, perched in the ITAS turret while holding the kids' eye-level with the scope to let them play with the switches.
Month of the Military Child is a Department of the Defense initiative to recognize the special sacrifices and circumstances of children who have parents in the military. This year's theme, "Everyday Heroes," celebrates children's intregal role in the Army family.
"I have a daughter myself, so it's fun seeing how the kids interact with all these big trucks," said Staff Sgt. Donald William.
All children seemed to glow from the one-on-one attention they received during the morning they spent playing with the big boys ... and their toys.
View more photos from Wheels Day on Flickr.