FORT GEORGE G. MEADE, Md. - Who better to hear from about life as a Soldier than a command sergeant major in the U.S. Army' The answer gets even better when you have three noncommissioned officers who can all talk about life as a Soldier.
That's the package that sixth graders at Harper's Choice Middle School in Columbia got Monday when a trio of Fort Meade Soldiers spent time at the school to assist students with their service learning project.

Command Sgt. Major Cedric Thomas and Staff Sgt. Clayton Prater of Headquarters Command Battalion and Sgt. Bruce Burres of the Defense Courier Station paid a visit to Harper's Choice to provide students with an overview of life as a Soldier and discuss their recent deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan.

"I would do this over and over again," Thomas said about the visit. "I love it. This is how we gain confidence from young people about what we do. It's an ideal way to educate them about the U.S. Army."

The elementary class will complete a 25-hour service learning requirement that starts with an introduction to the various branches of the military.

During Monday's program, students asked questions ranging from the reasons the Soldiers joined the Army to what life is like during a deployment.

Thomas spoke of how his brother inspired him to join the Army and that now, after 25 years of service, he loves being a Soldier.

Thomas, Prater and Burres also emphasized the serious side of life in the Army and talked about how extended deployments can impact service members and their families. Before leaving, they also talked about how proud they are to have an opportunity to serve the nation. That included a discussion of the work they do helping local communities and the nation deter threats from reaching the United States.

Students at Harper's Choice will continue to learn about the various branches of the military over the next few weeks and may even get to experience a real treat -- Meals Ready to Eat, compliments of a promise made by Thomas when he makes a return visit to the school.