By Robert Saxon, First ArmyDecember 17, 2010
FORT GILLEM, Ga. -- Members of the First Army headquarters visited W. A. Fountain Elementary School Friday morning in a very unique military operation designed to put smiles on the faces of more than 600 children at the Forest Park, Ga., school.
More than 60 Soldiers and civilian employees assigned to the Fort Gillem unit helped teachers distribute the gifts in this annual gift-giving event.
"This event is truly the highlight of our holiday season as members of First Army headquarters," said Lt. Gen Thomas G. Miller, First Army commanding general. "We are extremely grateful for the teachers and administrators at Fountain Elementary who give us the chance to be a partner in the community and reach out to children during the Christmas season."
This marks the eighth consecutive year for First Army's mission of delivering gifts to school children. It also marks the last school year the unit will be able to support the elementary school due to the First Army headquarters relocation to Rock Island Arsenal, Ill., next summer.
Wrapping and delivering the gifts happened this year as it has in the past, beginning with the members of First Army choosing student names from tags on the First Army Christmas tree and purchasing gifts.
"What makes this gift-giving event even more special this year is the fact that this will be our last 'Operation Gift' here in Atlanta," said Miller. "We will most certainly miss the close relationship we have developed with the students and faculty at the elementary school."
The partnership between First Army headquarters and Fountain Elementary began in 1996. During the past 14 years, Soldiers and civilian employees have supported the school through a variety of programs including mentoring students, reading books to classes, volunteering in the classroom and support field day events.
"It has been a delight and a pleasure to be partners over the years with the wonderful staff and faculty of this great elementary school," said Miller, speaking about the long-term relationship with the school.
First Army is responsible for the mobilization, training and deployment of continental United States-based National Guard and Army Reserve forces for contingency operations worldwide. The unit is scheduled to relocate to Rock Island Arsenal, Ill., in 2011.