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HomeNewsFort Campbell Soldiers welcome West Creek Elementary students back to school

Fort Campbell Soldiers welcome West Creek Elementary students back to school

Written by Sgt. Leejay Lockhart
101st Sustainment Brigade, 101st Airborne Division (AA) Public Affairs

101st Sustainment Brigade - LifelinersFort Campbell KY - 101st Airborne Division

Fort Campbell, KY – For local students, the arrival of August means summer is almost over and the start of the school year isn’t far behind.

To ease students and Families back into the academic rhythm, the staff at West Creek Elementary and the 716th Military Police Battalion, 101st Sustainment Brigade, held a back-to-school bash Saturday, at West Creek Elementary School in Clarksville, Tennessee.

Pvt. Adam Grine, a native of Fostoria, Ohio, and a volunteer from Headquarters and Headquarters Detachment, 716th Military Police Battalion, 101st Sustainment Brigade, 101st Airborne Division, participates in a fun run with students during a back-to-school bash Saturday, at West Creek Elementary School in Clarksville, Tenn. Soldiers have volunteered at the school since it opened seven years ago. (Sgt. Leejay Lockhart, 101st Sustainment Brigade Public Affairs)
Pvt. Adam Grine, a native of Fostoria, Ohio, and a volunteer from Headquarters and Headquarters Detachment, 716th Military Police Battalion, 101st Sustainment Brigade, 101st Airborne Division, participates in a fun run with students during a back-to-school bash Saturday, at West Creek Elementary School in Clarksville, Tenn. Soldiers have volunteered at the school since it opened seven years ago. (Sgt. Leejay Lockhart, 101st Sustainment Brigade Public Affairs)

Once again, West Creek received support from the Soldiers of the 716th Military Police Battalion “Peacekeepers,” which has partnered with the school for the past seven years.

The battalion, like other Screaming Eagle units, constantly works to make sure Fort Campbell is a good neighbor to its surrounding communities. One of the unit’s most important missions, besides maintaining a high state of combat readiness, is to contribute to the educational development of children and enrich their learning experiences.

To do that, the unit has Soldiers volunteer to work with local schools. Having these volunteers in the classroom gives a chance for students to learn more about the military.

Since many children in Clarksville, TN, Oak Grove, KY and Hopkinsville, KY have a military member in their family, seeing Soldiers around the school can be a source of pride for them.

Sgt. Nickolas Ehrhardt, the Fort Campbell Special Reaction Reaction Team NCO in charge, demonstrates a stun gun to MacKenzie, 6, during a back-to-school bash Aug. 2, at West Creek Elementary School in Clarksville, Tenn. He was one of several volunteers from the battalion who assisted with the event. (Sgt. Leejay Lockhart, 101st Sustainment Brigade Public Affairs)
Sgt. Nickolas Ehrhardt, the Fort Campbell Special Reaction Reaction Team NCO in charge, demonstrates a stun gun to MacKenzie, 6, during a back-to-school bash Aug. 2, at West Creek Elementary School in Clarksville, Tenn. He was one of several volunteers from the battalion who assisted with the event. (Sgt. Leejay Lockhart, 101st Sustainment Brigade Public Affairs)

“They have always been a part of this school,” said Iris Camacho, a teaching assistant for the special needs children at West Creek. Soldiers had volunteered at the school since it opened seven years ago, she said. “I think it’s a good morale booster for the Families and everything. You see that the military is supporting our schools, and they do support us though many events that we have throughout the year.”

The school provided a number of activities to keep the children entertained, including inflatable bouncers and jump ropes.

The school also had organizations ranging from the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts to the PTO on hand to provide information. Chelsea Daley, the PTO president and the parent volunteer coordinator, said the day was all about community building.

“We’re really hoping to get parents back up into the area and just get the kids really excited about going back to school,” said Daley. “A lot of the staff are here – the teachers, and the administrators – so it’s a really good time to see them in a different environment.”

For Daley, it was hard to be a military kid, because deployments and other stresses could bring them down but seeing a Soldier volunteering at the school could cheer them up and turn the child’s day around, she said.

The Peacekeepers who volunteered to help kick off the school year attracted many Families to their displays. The volunteers included Soldiers from Fort Campbell’s Special Reaction Team – an Army version of a SWAT team – who came with their police truck, a variety of weapons and tools the MPs use to carry out law enforcement operations, and even a police bicycle with sirens and lights used to keep residents on Fort Campbell safe.

Children took the opportunity to get up close and personal with the equipment. Many of the children had parents in the Army and asked if they used similar weapons and gear. However, judging by both the line and the smiles on their faces, taking control of the lights and sirens in the SRT truck seemed like the most popular part of spending time with the MPs.

Spc. Damaris Gonzalez, a military volunteer and member of Fort Campbell's Special Reaction Team, lets Elijah, 8, control the lights and sirens on the SRT’s truck during a back-to-school bash Aug. 2, at West Creek Elementary School in Clarksville, Tenn. Soldiers have assisted the school as volunteers since it opened seven years ago. (Sgt. Leejay Lockhart, 101st Sustainment Brigade Public Affairs)
Spc. Damaris Gonzalez, a military volunteer and member of Fort Campbell’s Special Reaction Team, lets Elijah, 8, control the lights and sirens on the SRT’s truck during a back-to-school bash Aug. 2, at West Creek Elementary School in Clarksville, Tenn. Soldiers have assisted the school as volunteers since it opened seven years ago. (Sgt. Leejay Lockhart, 101st Sustainment Brigade Public Affairs)

Tishun Miles, one of the students at West Creek, enjoyed getting to see the equipment and playing in the SRT truck.

“They showed us how to work the SWAT truck, and they showed us a little bit of their gear that they use on post,” he said. “It’s pretty awesome that you can do, like, a whole bunch of stuff in the Army.”

Besides military police, other volunteers from the battalion, representing a diverse mix of job specialties, gave out food and water. They also engaged the children in games, made chalk drawings with them and took part in a fun run at the end of the festivities.

Pfc. Brittany Pritchard, an intelligence analysis with Headquarters and Headquarters Detachment, spent part of her day at the event delighting children by making clouds of bubbles for them.

“I think it’s just a really good learning experience. When I was young I don’t really remember the Army coming out to the schools or anything,” said Pritchard, a native of Baton Rouge, LA.

She added that spending time in the community and building a connection to people had the added benefit of positively influencing their law enforcement mission.

“I do know that having a good working relationship with the citizens, especially the people on post or anybody that might come on post from the outside, is good,” she said. “Because if you want to do effective police work you have to make sure the citizens like you (and) trust you.”

Diane Gallivan, a Media Specialist at West Creek Elementary, said West Creek was 80 percent military kids and that it had a great relationship with the military on Fort Campbell and the Soldiers who volunteer at the school, she said. She expected to have another successful year working with military volunteers.

“Each time they are here, it continues to build that relationship. We see them as approachable, as touchable, versus what the kids see on TV and not being approachable,” she said. “In their eyes, you’re heroes.”

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