By Cursha Pierce-LundermanAugust 11, 2011
FORT JACKSON, S.C. -- Fort Jackson families flocked to Hilton Field to enjoy a fun night of safety, food, and friends during the Annual National Night Out Aug. 3.
Housing area residents came out to enjoy games, presentations, and demonstrations by several law enforcement and emergency services in the Columbia area. The focus of the event was to bring together law enforcement officials with the communities they support.
Garrison Commander Col. James Love, and Maj. Raymond Simons, director of Directorate of Emergency Services signed a proclamation declaring the night as an official event and encouraged the community to join law enforcement in a partnership for safety.
"This is the first time we’ve made it this large of an event," said Maj. David Kerr, chief of Fort Jackson Police Operations. "We brought in our partners from off installation and that has never been done before. We thought the event went well, and we were glad to get the support from all of those who came out that night."
Children learned that policemen were nice people with a little bit of help from a 9-foot inflatable deputy.
"We bring this character out to schools and these types of events to let kids see that police are the nice guys," said Sgt. Verlon Rhodes of the Richland County Sheriff’s Department.
Visitors also met the four-legged members of law enforcement during National Night Out.
Cree the Quarter Horse is a member of the Richland County Sheriff’s Posse and is used in search and rescue missions in the Columbia area.
Cree’s handler, Eleanor Ellison spoke to children about the importance of staying safe when separated from family members.
"We come out and encourage kids to respond to their names when called if they are lost," Ellison said. "A lot of people teach their kids not to talk to strangers, but if they stay quiet while lost in the woods, we will have a harder time finding them."
Horses are used during searches to cover a scent trail.
"We usually work in cases where an Alzheimer’s patient or child has wandered off," Ellison said.
Fort Jackson’s 17th Military Police Detachment brought one of its military police dogs, Nero, to demonstrate how dogs are used to aid in police investigations and search operations.
Other law enforcement agencies brought their fun equipment such as motorcycles, helicopters, and a tank called, "The Peacemaker,"” to add to the exhibits. For some of the equipment, spending time on Fort Jackson was a return to military roots.
"This helicopter was used by Army aviators out in Hawaii before the Sheriff’s department got it," said pilot Lloyd Dunham of the Richland County Sheriff’s Department.
Fort Jackson family readiness groups and family support organizations were also a part of National Night Out this year. Operation Homefront handed out hundreds of backpacks filled with school supplies and raffled off printers to help make the event a night to remember. One of the first printers was awarded to the Corrales family.
"I just can’t believe we won. This is amazing," said Ivan Corrales, 12. "We’ve got to come back here next year."