MARINE CORPS AIR STATION CHERRY POINT, N.C. - The commanding officer of Marine Air Control Squadron 2 was all smiles when he sat in a child-sized chair in the library of Creekside Elementary School in New Bern, N.C., May 3, to sign a volunteer agreement between his squadron and the school.
With rows of children's books as a back drop, Lt. Col. Chris S. Richie and Abbey Whitford, principal of Creekside Elementary School, signed an agreement for the volunteer Marine school liaison program to adopt the school. The squadron sergeant major, Sgt. Maj. William R. Sweet, and some of the squadron's volunteer Marines stood by as witnesses. "We were made aware that Creekside Elementary School was interested in the adopt-a-school program," said Richie. "We are very excited about the opportunity to give back to the community that we are privileged to be a part of."
Richie said he coordinated with Donna M. Bagley, Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point's school liaison officer, who arranged a meeting between himself, Sweet, and Whitford.
"We are very excited here because we feel it will help students and Marines build a sense of community," Whitford said. "We feel this partnership will provide students with positive role models."
While Whitford may be excited about what her students will draw from the experience, Sweet has similar sentiments about his Marines.
"This will teach the Marines another sense of responsibility," Sweet said. "Those Marines without children get the chance to develop life skills as well."
One Marine said the school gives him a home-hearted feeling when he is around the students.
"I'm volunteering because I really miss my nephew," said Lance Cpl. Brian K. Johnson, a radar technician with MACS-2, "so to come out and hang out with some of the kids makes me feel better."
MACS-2 Marines first volunteered with Creekside Elementary School April 22-23, at the school's field meet.
"Following our first event, the Marines saw excitement, energy, and camaraderie in the eyes of Creekside's children," Richie said. "Those are values we hold dear. Our Marines benefited from the experience as much, if not more than the students."
The scope of the partnership between MACS-2 and Creekside Elementary School involves volunteer work, mentoring, and beautification projects on the school's grounds.
"We get the chance to positively impact the life of a child," Richie said. "I am excited and fired-up about this."