By Capt. Xeriqua Garfinkel (101st Airborne)October 23, 2012
CLARKSVILLE, Tenn. (Oct. 23, 2012) -- It is Friday morning, Oct. 19, and while most Soldiers don their uniform and go to work, Soldiers of the 7th Battalion, 101st Aviation Regiment, 159th Combat Aviation Brigade, roll up their sleeves and head out the front gate.
Organization Day this month for the "Dragons," Company D, 7th Bn, 101st Avn. Reg., consisted of 92 volunteers assisting with eight different community outreach projects spread throughout the Clarksville area in order to show their support for the surrounding community.
"(There's) something to be said about going out, getting away from work but also doing some good," said Capt. Ben Summers, the Dragons' company commander.
A variety of volunteer opportunities was identified through Hands on Clarksville, a web based site that links eager volunteers with places that need help.
"It's a resource where the city of Clarksville will post where they need help, that is where we got all our ideas," said Staff Sgt. Todd Vandyke, an airframe structure repair section NCOIC. "If you are interested in volunteering and don't know where to start, you can go there."
The projects ranged from helping at homeless shelters to working with local parks and recreation services. The Dragons not only instilled esprit de corps, they also proved to the community they appreciate the revere the community has shown the military.
"As Soldiers in a great community of Clarksville and Hopkinsville, folks always come up to us and thank us for our service," said 1st Sgt. Pieter Nosworthy, the Dragons' first sergeant. "Here is an opportunity to return the compliment and the courtesy."
The idea was born by listening closely to the junior Dragon leaders.
Sgt. Vincent Taman, a hydraulics team leader, regularly helps out the community by volunteering his time with his kids in tow. His goal is to teach his children the value of giving back. So when the company commander solicited ideas for the upcoming organizational day, Taman spoke up.
"(Soldiers) get to go out and feel good by helping their community and make a difference," Taman said. "The little things you do can make a big difference for someone else. It puts pride in Soldiers doing the right things."
So on this day, he is with 12 fellow Dragon Warriors, happily covered in splinters, helping to shovel and spread countless heaps of woodchips onto three play areas in front of the Moore Magnet School in downtown Clarksville, so that the children may have a safe place to romp.
Dragons also assisted sorting books and movies, organizing various materials and yard work at the local Salvation Army facility on Kraft Street.
"We are limited staff with limited budget and volunteers help us get to do the things we can't get to," said Renee Thompson, the thrift store manager with the Salvation Army.
The purpose goes beyond the immediate feel good effect of helping out with chores that the local non-profit organizations face, whether due to budget cuts or lack of brute strength.
"It's a great team building event," said Summers. "(It) also reminds us of why we serve, because for a lot of these people they are trying to pursue the American dream and they just need a little bit of help doing it."
This event concretely demonstrates how to have a positive impact on the surrounding populace with very little effort and planning, yet yielding big results.
"We needed help with the upkeep," said Ellen porter, the residential coordinator for Oak Hill Centerstone, an organization that assists adults suffering from mental illness and addiction. "Soldiers here painted the front and back porch railing, not only giving the facility a fresher appearance but also helped keep it up to state code."
The active participation with the surrounding community demonstrates the importance of meeting the needs of our nation by strengthening local partnerships and helping out where we can.
"It reflects two of our Army values, selfless service and loyalty," said Nosworthy.
The Dragon command team recognized the value of creating adaptable leaders for the Army's future and seized the opportunity to allow the junior leaders to take the helm. At each of the eight locations, there was one appointed team leader to ensure the task got done as instructed and everyone stayed focused.
At the Tennessee Rehabilitation Center, an organization that helps people with disabilities find jobs, it was Sgt. Mercedes Cascante, an aircraft electrician, who stepped up to lead a team of Soldiers she might not otherwise get a chance to work with.
"What they wanted us to do was repaint everything in a solid color," Cascante said. "We taped up all the corners, the sides and all the little signs, put down the tarp and just began to paint. I think it's a good thing to come out and help people."
"That's the great thing about working with Soldiers," said Nosworthy. "You don't have to push, you just have to lead them."
The Dragons could not accomplish this major event without the total support from their higher command.
Summers said it was Lt. Col. Halter, the battalion commander, 7th Bn., 101st Avn. Regt., who really made this happen. He allowed the Dragons to run with the unique idea of building unit pride and cohesion through community outreach.
Other activities the Dragons volunteered for include folding clothes for the Backdoor Boutique, a thrift store offering free household items for lower-enlisted active duty Soldiers. And at the Woodlawn Parks neighborhood, they spread rocks to upkeep and beautify the area.
Leader development, unit pride and community outreach were all encompassed in Dragon Company's Organization Day as they reinforced the reason they serve for each other, their families and their community.
"We want to make it a routine thing, it's a fun thing to do," said Summers.