FORT STEWART, Ga. - Beloved by Marne children, Third Infantry Division mascot Sgt. Rocky's neighborhood television show was named an Army best practice. Army Community Services Mobilization and Deployment programs throughout other installations can now incorporate lessons learned with the use of puppets and educating military-connected children.
"We are out here to meet the needs of our community," said Program Manager for Mobilization and Deployment Tonya Imus. "It's [Sgt. Rocky's show] a great avenue to use so kids and parents can learn the message about deployment and being separated. We educate and reach the children and parents… we are reaching the whole community."
Sergeant Rocky was originally drawn by Walt Disney and can be seen on stewart.army.mil. The ACS version of Sgt. Rocky is a large puppet that was magically brought to life and helps children better understand and cope with separation related concerns from a child's perspective. In simple terms, Sgt. Rocky takes Soldier and Family related concerns with deployment and explains them in a kid-friendly manner.
Mobilization and Deployment Specialist and the character's voice, Beau Bradley explained, "Sergeant Rocky is very iconic ... and a strong loving figure within the 3rd ID. Military children are such a special part of our population and for a long time military children were not considered as part of the deployment education process."
With input from an old script from the late 1980's and early 1990's called "Operation Ready-Far and Away" that utilized puppets, Bradley and his teammates worked to bring the character to life. Topics covered on the show have included equipment that Soldiers use while in the field for training and what to expect when their Soldier returns from deployment. "Kids adjust to things so much easier than grownups and we take simple ideas and let them know that it's okay to talk about it [deployment]," Imus said.
Bradley added with roughly 1.8 to 1.9 military connected children, the Department of the Army recognized that if children are enjoying military life that will positively impact their Soldier.
"I remember watching how my own children deal with deployment," Imus said. "I've learned that kids understand basic concepts and when a puppet talks with them they can relate. It's nice to see how children react to the puppets and their reaction."
According to Bradley, few installations had a similar puppet show to Sgt. Rocky and the success of the program underscores the commitment ACS has to building stronger 3rd ID Families.
"Our team is thinking outside the box," Imus added. "We are asking what will children take away from the show?"
"The personal joy and gratification of seeing the children's faces… seeing the interaction is satisfying," Bradley said. "That iconic figure coming to life is overwhelming. It's not about awards…this is something so unique to Fort Stewart that we are getting a positive message to our children."
In addition to the best practice award, Sgt. Rocky's Neighborhood show was recognized by the Maj. Gen. Keith L. Ware Public Affairs Communication competition that recognizes journalistic excellence. The ACS Mobilization and Deployment program was responsible for script writing and logistics in an effort to appeal to 3rd ID children.
The Sgt. Rocky's neighborhood television show is aired daily on Marne Television and can also be viewed at stewart.army.mil.