SHAW AIR FORCE BASE, S.C. --Third Army/ARCENT was hosted by the Sumter School District for a tour of their schools and educational facilities Thursday, May 24.

The tour was an opportunity for the Third Army/ARCENT team to see first-hand the local schools in the district, which include Shaw Air Force Base and Sumter, S.C.

"We value very much our relationship with the school district …Thanks for letting us partner with you in the community and opening the door to us," said Third Army/ARCENT Commanding General Lt. Gen. Vincent K. Brooks.

The tour, hosted by Sumter School District Superintendent Randolph D. Bynum, Sr., began at the school district administrative office with a brief overview of the district, schools, student accomplishments and the support provided to military children by trained staff.

"I am very proud of the way Third Army hit the ground running to become a partner in the community," said Bynum in his opening remarks of the tour. He continued noting the success of the mentorship program Third Army/ARCENT has with the district and other partnerships that have formed over the past 11 months.

The group visited Bates Middle School, the Early Childhood Center, Crestwood High School, and ended the tour at High Hills Elementary School. The principals/directors and students guided the tours of each school.

The school district was formed July 1, 2011 by consolidating Sumter School Districts Two and 17. Sumter School District includes more than 17,000 students in grades preschool through 12 including about 1,450 military-affiliated students. The district includes 31 educational facilities, offering educational services from early childhood to adult, said Shelly Galloway, Public Information and Strategic Partnerships coordinator, Sumter School District.

Third Army/ARCENT supports the school district through numerous partnership opportunities and programs such as mentorship, community appreciation events, education week, career fairs, book readings, and parent volunteers.

One parent volunteer from Wilder Elementary School, Sgt. 1st Class Lee Knuckles Jr., sends his two sons, Lee III, 8, and Cori, 5, to the same school that he attended as a child. Knuckles, a Combined Operations and Intelligence Center noncommissioned officer in Third Army/ARCENT was born and raised in Sumter and both of his parents were educators for 45 years each in District 17 and District 2.

"I have chosen to send my children to the same schools because the schools that I attended are great," said Knuckles. "They are great in the sense that they have better technology, small classes and the teachers just seem to bond with your children."

Knuckles has been in the Army for 15 years in July of this year and sees many changes at Wilder and district-wide.

"When I attended Wilder Elementary and Bates Middle School, the schools were not as large," said Knuckles. "There has been a lot of structural and technological changes. We used to have books for every class, now it seems like the children learn more on the computers. The subjects that we learned about years ago are way different now. The children are learning more advanced subjects sooner in school versus when I attended."

The partnership between the Sumter School District and Third Army/ARCENT is an initiative created by the commander and school superintendent to enhance relations in the Sumter community. It began last summer when the unit relocated from Fort McPherson, Ga. to Shaw Air Force Base, S.C. as directed by the 2005 Base Realignment and Closure.

At the end of the tour, Brooks said the visits to the schools in the district were inspiring and informative. He added that he was thankful the district was able to make it possible with such a short time left in the school year and that he and the group will be better able to advocate in the community after seeing the schools in the district.

The Third Army/ARCENT team stands ready to conduct operations anytime and anywhere as directed to deter or defeat adversaries while sustaining forces in theater in order to support combat and shaping operations. It continues to shape the operational environment to enable partner nations. To learn more about the Third Army, visit or visit them on Facebook at .