WASHINGTON, June 23, 2011 -- There’s a lot of “Hooah” being spoken in the nation’s capitol this week as the U.S. Army’s eCYBERMISSION National Judging and Educational Event unfolds.

Soldiers from the U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command, or RDECOM, are ensuring the middle school students taking part learn as much as possible about the Army, sponsor of the annual online science competition.

Fifty-nine students, their team advisors and some parents have traveled to Washington, D.C., to take part in the event. Now in its ninth year, eCYBERMISSION is the largest online science competition in America. More than 12,000 students from across the country took part in the program this year.

As in year’s past, Soldiers from RDECOM bring a degree of military bearing to the event.

“I like to think in some way the Soldiers being here helps break down the stigma students may have about them,” said Louie Lopez, eCYBERMISSION coordinator for RDECOM. “By being with them a significant amount of time during the week, the Soldiers show the students a human aspect about Soldiers, show them they are real people.

“The bond they form is a wonderful thing,” he added.

The Soldiers are linked with “their team” the moment the team arrives. Over the course of the week the Soldiers are charged with teaching the students Army Values as well as ensuring their safety as they tour Washington, visit their Congress members and take part in activities.

“It’s always a wonderful thing to watch the students bond with the Soldier assigned to their team.” added Katherine Smith, an eCYBERMISSION spokesperson.

“It’s awesome,” said Staff Sgt. William Bowman, a Soldier from Aberdeen Proving Ground, Md. “And the kids are so smart. You can tell by the questions they ask, and their ability to answer questions. It’s just awesome, and it’s the future of America.”

Staff Sgt. Elissa Holtry, also from Aberdeen Proving Ground, used a different word to describe her involvement.

“It’s inspiring to be here, to be part of this event,” she said. “These kids represent the future of our country and I’m inspired just to be here.”

Other Soldiers taking part this year include: Master Sgt. Jemall Pittman, Master Sgt. John Cavaliere, Sgt 1st Class Antwone Gholson, Sgt. 1st Class Christopher Currie, Staff Sgt. John Bennett, Staff Sgt. Dashawna Wingate, Staff Sgt. Angel Clancy, and the RDECOM Soldier of the Year, Spc. Bernard Quackenbush.

The eCYBERMISSION focus shifts Thursday when the national judging takes place, followed by the National Showcase at 7 p.m. Students will present their projects to a national audience during the showcase, which is viewable at the LiveStream link above right.

National winners will be announced at an awards banquet Friday evening.