By VINCE LITTLEMarch 7, 2012
AUBURN, Ala. -- A group of Auburn High School students embarking on a care package campaign for deployed Soldiers got a boost last week from the BOSS.
Spc. Salah Al Hakim, president of Better Opportunities for Single Soldiers at Fort Benning, addressed members of the Hal Moore Leadership Academy after school Wednesday. The 4th Ranger Training Battalion Soldier shared his experiences from Iraq, discussed leadership attributes and highlighted the Army values.
"We wanted to have someone come in and speak to them about what it's like to serve overseas, so they can feel the need and communicate that to the other students here for this care package drive to be successful," said Blake Busbin, the club's sponsor, who teaches 12th-grade American government and AP U.S. government and politics at Auburn High. "It will help them empathize with the situation Soldiers face overseas, and allow them help the students realize why these supplies are needed."
The leadership academy, now in its third full year at the high school, is named for retired Lt. Gen. Hal Moore, an Auburn resident whose heroics in Vietnam during the Battle of Ia Drang are chronicled in the 2002 American war film, We Were Soldiers. Busbin said the club's main purpose is to take the leadership lessons Moore developed and produce strong young leaders who apply those principles across all aspects of the school community.
Auburn High's care package campaign began Feb. 27 and continues through Friday. Academy members are in charge of promoting it throughout the school and encouraging other students to get involved and contribute. A competition is under way among the classes to see who can donate the most supplies.
BOSS, which promotes quality-of-life issues, recreation and leisure activities for single Solders, also conducts community outreach. Al Hakim spoke to the students about what it's like to receive a care package on deployment.
"It means a lot," he told the group. "It's kinda like Christmas Day. I've seen some pretty tough guys break down after getting a care package from someone back home.
"Smiles don't come easy when you're deployed. But care packages do a lot to lift morale."
Busbin said he hoped the presentation resonates with students so they get a better picture of what it's like to serve in a combat zone.
"They can at least understand what it's like, why some of these supplies are needed and what these supplies can do for them," he said. "Hopefully, they can take his message and communicate it to other students who weren't able to be here."
The Hal Moore Leadership Academy has 37 members at Auburn High, another 25 in junior high and 20 at Drake Middle School, he said. In addition to learning about leadership, the club visits the National Infantry Museum each spring. Plans are being made to see a Rangers in Action demonstration at Hurley Hill and Victory Pond in 2013.
Busbin said club members go through an extensive application and interview process, which requires students to get written recommendations for entry.
Emma Thompson, a 17-year-old junior, said she joined the leadership academy this school year.
"Through this club, I've learned a lot more about the military than I knew before," she said. "I feel like I've learned leadership qualities you need to succeed in life and everything you pursue. When I leave high school, I'll be able to carry those characteristics into the real world. This club has taught me a lot about myself and the life qualities that will benefit me in the future."
Al Hakim spoke to sixth- and seventh-graders Feb. 22 at Drake. He said he hopes to set up regular leadership workshops, functions and exchanges with Auburn-area students as part of BOSS community service. The Infantryman also is working to bring Hal Moore Leadership Academy members to Fort Benning to tackle obstacle and confidence courses.
He said it's important for Soldiers and other leaders from Fort Benning to share the Army message and engage in this kind of community endeavor.
"I feel just as we serve the military, it's our job to be involved with our extended communities, too," he said. "I see the need to make a change in someone's life. If I can share my experiences and I help these young kids out, I'm all for it.
"Society needs more positive role models. Something we do well is live the Army values. If we can go out and share that in the community, if they're able to learn from it and have that same drive to help their fellow citizens out, I think it's important and our obligation to do that."