News: Houston middle school students visit Rail Gunners
Story by Capt. John Farmer
FORT HOOD, Texas – Leadership Officer Training Corps students from the Aldine Independent School District in Houston visited with members of the 41st Fires Brigade here June 27.
The middle school students had the opportunity to see the Multi-Launch Rocket System, talk to Soldiers, eat at an on-post dining facility and visit the 1st Cavalry Division Museum.
The LOTC is a leadership development program where students learn basic drill and ceremony, discipline, rifle drills, military tactics and leadership. LOTC is designed to prepare young men and women for high school, college or future military service.
Al Gonzalez, a former Army Captain, is the primary LOTC instructor at Plummer Middle School in Houston. He and several other instructors have been coordinating field trips like this one for the past several years.
“We do a summer camp each year,” Gonzalez said. “It’s three weeks long, Monday through Thursday, and we teach kids basic drill and ceremony, leadership and discipline, the whole nine yards. We try to make every Thursday a field trip day, and this is the closing one we do each and every year.”
The three-week summer camp is not a requirement for the students to enroll in the LOTC program at their respective middle schools. However, Gonzalez said, it helps a great deal because it allows the new 8th graders to take on more responsibility as leaders in their organization. Additionally, the summer camp acts as a newcomer orientation for the students who plan to join the LOTC program in the up-coming school year.
Isidoro Mendez is an 8th grader at Hambrick Middle School in Houston and has been with his school’s LOTC program for a little more than a year now. As a new team leader in his school’s organization, he is excited about the prospect of taking on additional responsibilities.
“It’s cool to teach others what the program is about, to [help] them grow up better,” Mendez said. “You’re a role model.”
In the same way that the military utilizes experienced leaders and noncommissioned officers to pass on their knowledge to new Soldiers, the same expectation exists for the young middle school students involved in the LOTC program.
Deann Delarosa, an 8th grader at Teague Middle School in Houston feels like she is passing on a tradition to the younger students.
The opportunity for students to come to Fort Hood to meet with 41st Fires Brigade Soldiers would not have been possible without the hard work of Mario Rodriguez, the primary LOTC instructor at Shotwell Middle School in Houston.
Rodriguez, a former Army sergeant, left the Army in December 2008. Though he was no longer actively serving in the Military, it didn’t stop him from supporting the Army in any way that he could.
“I was stationed here [Fort Hood] and when I got out…I was picked up to be an LOTC instructor 30 days out of the military,” Rodriguez said. “The other instructors that had been doing this a while told me they were interested, that they wanted to come to Fort Hood to do something good for the kids.”
Fortunately for the young students and the other instructors, Rodriguez had stayed in touch with his old team chief and sergeant major. A few phone calls and some emails have paved the way to a great relationship between the Houston LOTC program and the units here on Fort Hood.
Al Gonzalez, the former Army captain, said he is grateful for the opportunities his students have had over the past few years and is excited for what is to come.
“Last year and the year before, we had the opportunity to see the Abrams and the Bradley (tank and fighting vehicle, respectively),” Gonzalez said. “This year happens to be the first year we get to experience the MLRS. For the kids that were with us last year, this is new to them. For the kids that are new this year, this is new to them as well.”