News: Local elementary school students participate in unit Army day
Story by Lt. Col. Sonise Lumbaca
FORT GEORGE G. MEADE, Md. - On a bright and warm sunny morning, a week away from the Army’s 238th Birthday celebration, students from a local elementary school had the opportunity to spend a day with soldiers and participate in a variety of Army activities.
The U.S. Army Asymmetric Warfare Group hosted an Army day on June 5 for 23 students from Marley Elementary School located in Glen Burnie, Md. These particular students belong to a program within the elementary school known as The Marley Boys.
“The purpose of the Army day was to introduce the Army and military service to middle school aged boys. We wanted to give them exposure to the military, introduction to Army values, teach about personal responsibility, and the value of teamwork,” said 1st Sgt. Jason Levy, the Headquarters and Headquarters Company first sergeant. "Growing up, I attended a military-themed day at a local National Guard armory. I remember seeing all of the equipment and meeting the troops. It was something that I always remembered.”
Levy added that having an Army day for the students provided an introduction to the military to future prospective soldiers. The events conducted also provided the opportunity for the boys to increase their personal courage and teamwork of their organization.
According to its website, Marley Boys was founded in the 2009-2010 school year. It was developed when teachers and staff from Marley Elementary School saw a need for at-risk boys with a high level of referrals and/or in need of a positive role-model in their life to begin getting some help.
“When you ask these boys what do they want to be when they grow up, most of them will respond that they want to be a football player. We try to get them to think about what will they do if they don’t get that opportunity to get into the (National Football League). They have to have a backup plan,” said Diane Williams, one of the program directors.
The program tries to give these boys, who ages range from 8-11 years old, options and some direction early in life, Williams said.
The idea to spend a day with the Army actually came from one of the students.
“At the end of the school year last year, I asked the boys what trips they would like to take this year. A few of them responded with visiting an Army base,” said Sandra Lemoncello a teacher and reading intervention specialist at the elementary school who work for the program. “And then, when I mentioned it to the whole group, they were all excited about it. Many of them never leave Glen Burnie.”
During the event, the boys had the opportunity to participate in a mock and abbreviated physical fitness test, learn the various equipment that soldiers use to conduct their daily missions, what field rations look like, conduct drill and ceremony activities, and look at military vehicles.
"The truck was cool! We got to ride in it, sit inside it and pop our head out the top! It was fun to ride in,” said 10-year-old Austin Mech, one of the Marley Boys students.
While the hands on of Army equipment and physical fitness events seemed to be a big hit with the students, most agreed that the basic rappelling was by far the best event.
During the Army day, the students had the opportunity to harness up and rappel a 15 foot slope wall managed by Soldiers who safely guided them down.
Ryann Johnson, an 11-year-old, appreciated the fact that he remained in safe hands. It was important “knowing that somebody was there so I wouldn't get hurt.”
“And it helped build my confidence for trying new things," he added.
The events were chosen to place the students out of their comfort zone and create team building while developing individual and team confidence.
“We also wanted them to conduct activities that would be new to them,” Levy said.
Events chosen also only required the use of organic and home station assets.
“We did not have to plan too much for this event because it is a task that we have executed before. Since (most AWG members are) familiar with static displays, equipment layouts, vehicle displays, and mountaineering, we were able to execute this task with minimal planning. This event was free to organize and execute,” Levy said.
To conclude the day’s activities, the students attended the Fort Meade Military Museum. While there, they had the opportunity to learn about military history and a variety of historical facts, equipment and notable military members who significantly impacted the evolution of today’s Army.
"The Gettysburg exhibit, the tanks and the artifacts from World War I" were the best part of the museum visit said 11-year-old Eyan Johnson.
Upon conclusion of the day’s activities, the students were presented with AWG "certificates of participation,” as a memento so that they have something to look back on to remember the day’s event.
“The boys had a fantastic time. They are still talking about it! The soldiers were so patient with them and that was nice for the boys. I would love to do this trip again in the future,” Lemoncello said. “Also, the certificates were great! The boys loved showing them off when they got back to school. They were proud of themselves!”
While the AWG’s Army day was a fun filled unique experience that may have created a plethora of potential future opportunities, it definitely provided role models that the students can look up to.
“The Army is cool and exciting. (The students) learned about the history. And they also left with a greater respect for the soldiers,” Lemoncello said.