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    Leah Esper tours Fort Campbell Family services

    Leah Esper tours Fort Campbell Family services

    Photo By Maria McClure | Leah Esper, wife of Secretary of the Army Mark T. Esper, reads Dr. Seuss’ “Yurtle...... read more read more

    FORT CAMPBELL , KY, UNITED STATES

    07.10.2018

    Story by Maria McClure 

    Fort Campbell Public Affairs Office

    FORT CAMPBELL, Ky. – As Leah Esper entered Watters Child Development Center 2 she cheerfully greeted the staff gathered there.

    “Hi, I’m Leah,” she said as she shook hands with staff members.

    Esper, the wife of Secretary of the Army Mark T. Esper, accompanied her husband, July 10, 2018, on a visit to Fort Campbell. While the secretary toured the post to discuss his recently published Army vision, Esper visited agencies that also ensure readiness by supporting the Army Family.

    “Sometimes the connection between the services that we provide and readiness aren’t understood or highlighted. Visits like this shine a spotlight on how closely related these programs are to readiness,” said Mark Ryales, Child and Youth Services coordinator, Directorate of Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation. “I served eight years and I was deployed three or four times in those eight years. I understand the struggles and the worries that Soldiers have when they are deployed far away from their spouses and children. I am sure it brings great comfort to Soldiers knowing their Families are being well cared for and that is something they don’t have to worry about so they can just focus on their mission.”

    Cynthia Reese, Watters CDC 2 director, accompanied Esper as she walked through the center to a room where Esper would read Dr. Seuss’ “Yurtle the Turtle” aloud to a group of excited children.

    “One of my sons was a huge Dr. Seuss fan and he would ask for ‘The Lorax’ or ‘Yurtle the Turtle’ every night. I have those pretty much memorized,” Esper said laughing.

    Watters CDC 2 serves 235 children and has a 240 limit, Reese told Esper. Additionally, 40 percent of Watters 2 staff members are Army spouses.

    “We are here to support the Soldiers,” Reese said “It is our job to let them know that we are here for them while they are on the battlefield or at work. We are here to take care of their babies so they do not have to worry.”

    Visits like this provide senior leadership visibility they may not otherwise get, Ryales said.
    “The more they see our successes – and our challenges – the greater chance that we will get the recognition that our programs and staff deserve, as well as the assistance that we need to make sure that we can continue to provide the highest quality child care in America, the quality commensurate with our Soldiers’ sacrifice,” he said.

    Fort Campbell High School
    One of Esper’s first stops of the day was the new Fort Campbell High School, a 21st century school for ninth through 12th grade that is scheduled to open Aug. 6, 2018.

    “Mrs. Esper’s visit allowed us to highlight a myriad of ways that Fort Campbell High School supports our military-connected students and their Families,” said Stacy Green Daniels, senior counselor at Fort Campbell High School. “Our students are the heart of our school and we are honored to provide support to the children of our 101st Family.”

    The recently completed, $59 million, 184,000-square-foot, two-story facility is energy efficient and environmentally sustainable. In May 2015 Walsh Federal began construction of the school that is considered to be a Department of Defense Education Activity model.

    The facility, that can accommodate 800 students, boasts wireless coverage throughout the school; interactive flat panels, known as smart boards; furniture to address a variety of learning modalities and a vast space to enhance teaching and learning including an atrium-like central corridor that fills with natural light during the day.

    Following the 21st century school model, Fort Campbell High School features eight neighborhoods, each representing a subject similar to the way a college is organized.

    “Teachers of today use information from everywhere and this environment enhances the learning experience,” said Ken Jankowski, social studies and foreign language teacher. “It is unlimited the things that we can do and as a staff person working for DoDEA it is such a blessing to have a building like this.”

    “A blessing to have the building and to have the children who we serve,” Daniels added.

    Each neighborhood consists of six to seven learning studios, a group learning room, a one-on-one teaching room, a hub, and a staff collaboration space, she said.

    “In our collaborative learning studios, the teacher is not fixed at the front of the room. Today’s learners like a mobile teacher who can move easily from group to group to field questions and facilitate discussions,” Daniels said.

    Some of Esper’s other educational interests included the school’s support of homeschool students as well as those with special needs like autism.

    Fort Campbell High School supports homeschool students in a variety of ways including part-time enrollment in which the student can take classes, like a foreign language, that the parent may not be comfortable teaching, Jankowski said.

    Homeschool students, as well as traditional students, also have the opportunity to take classes online through DoDEA’s virtual high school, Daniels said. Those classes can be part of their class load for the semester or can be taken in addition, if a particular class does not fit into the student’s regular schedule, Jankowski said.

    The various educational programs at the school promote academic rigor, Daniels said. Additionally the school not only provides programs for students who excel and require challenging courses, but also for those who struggle.

    “We are looking to reach all our students no matter where they are,” Jankowski said.

    The school also houses two large life skills studios with environments that are specifically designed to enhance the learning experience for students with special needs.

    “DoDEA’s vision is to be among the world’s leaders in education, enriching the lives of military-connected students and the communities in which they live. At Fort Campbell High School, we live our agency’s vision daily. We are honored to support the Families serving at our installation and are attentive to their needs,” Daniels said. “When we provide stability and resources to Families, it ultimately enables the Soldiers who bravely serve our country to more effectively engage in their jobs and improve their overall mission readiness.”

    Survivor Outreach Services
    Suzy Yates, program manager of Army Community Service-Survivor Outreach Services, and Charlie Koon, vice president and director of corporate and military development at F&M Bank in Clarksville, greeted Esper in front of the Parrish House, home to Fort Campbell’s SOS.

    SOS supports overall readiness through its mission of providing aid and comfort to the Families of fallen service members.

    The Parrish House, once the home to Fort Campbell’s commanding generals, was built in 1833, Yates told Esper as they walked toward the house. Near the end of his command at Fort Campbell, then-Maj. Gen. James C. McConville designated the Parrish House as the home of SOS where survivors and their Families could find assistance as well as solace and comfort.

    “He basically said: ‘My home is yours.’ That made the survivors feel that they are a priority here at Fort Campbell,” Yates told Esper. “Being one of the oldest, most historical buildings on post and it having a story of its own leads the legacy of our fallen and that is a nice tie for our Families.”

    Once in the Hall of Remembrance, Yates explained its significance to the survivors who have found a refuge at the Parrish House.

    “Right now we have 215 photos – every branch of the service is represented,” Yates said.

    To add a loved one’s photo to the Hall of Remembrance the loss had to have happened while on active duty or the death was service-connected. The fallen service member may have “served at any unit here on Fort Campbell, including Special Operations or Special Forces, or the Family resides in our area,” she said. “You can see the variety of pictures we have in here. We don’t dictate what photos they submit. Some of them are in civilians, some of them are in their uniform it is really how the Family wants their loved one remembered.”

    Further into the visit, Yates discussed SOS on-post partnership with Fort Campbell’s Casualty Assistance Center. At the initial time of loss CAC assists Families in navigating arrangements and paperwork. Within about two months the Families will transition to SOS for further care and assistance. The partnership the two organizations have ensures that Families transition smoothly between the programs.

    Once at SOS, Families who wish to have help dealing with the loss a Military Family Life Counselor is available. At Fort Campbell, the same MFLC has with SOS for two years, Yates said.

    “Although it is unheard of in the MFLC program, it has been one of the greatest assets to our program,” Yates said. “We used to rotate and have a new MFLC in here every six weeks. What we found was our survivors stopped utilizing them because they would have to retell the loss and they would continually be re-traumatized telling the story over and over and so by having that continuity helps.”

    Fort Campbell SOS is responsible for nine counties in Tennessee and seven counties in Kentucky. The SOS team is currently servicing 1,045 survivors in their assigned coverage area, according to Yates. Additionally, the SOS team collaborates with their SOS National Guard and Army Reserve counterparts in Tennessee and Kentucky to reach out to the survivor community as well as Gold Star Families who are geographically distant from Fort Campbell.

    Three quarters of SOS Families stay in the area or move back because of the support they receive from the Montgomery and Christian county communities, Yates said. “We are so thankful for our local community, they are very supportive of our Families.”

    One such community effort is spearheaded by Koon, who has lead an effort to refurbish the inside and outside of the Parrish House.

    Koon told Esper about an idea to enhance the Parrish House landscape that led to a chance encounter with a friend who is a manager with Lowe’s and grew into a Lowe’s Heroes Project, a large-scale volunteer project that included a $99,600 donation of goods and services to refurbish the Parrish House.

    Earlier this year a group of more than 50 volunteers, including 20 Lowe’s employees, came together to refurbish the landscape of the Parrish House. The volunteers also pressure washed structures, added a playground and patio furniture. Inside the stairs leading to the second floor were re-carpeted and the kitchen was refurbished with new appliances.

    “We are still working on interior paint, some interior light fixtures, door knobs and other little things like that,” Koon said as he showed Esper before and after images.

    Colonel Joseph P. Kuchan, Fort Campbell garrison commander, expressed his gratitude for the community effort to Esper.

    “We can’t really do that as the garrison – especially with this being a historical landmark. That money would go other places to mission-focused things,” Kuchan told Esper. “For the community to be able to do this for the survivors is so fantastic. I am sure a lot of places you go they have great community support, but turning it into something oftentimes is pretty difficult. We have a great relationship with Charlie and his team and for putting this together we are super thankful.”

    The level of community support that Fort Campbell and its Families enjoy left an impression on Esper.

    “The one thing that we have come away with since we have been here today is how much volunteering and the outside community is so important to Fort Campbell,” she said.

    “It goes both ways. We are blessed to have Fort Campbell here and truly blessed to have the leadership we’ve had from headquarters and garrison,” Koon replied. “They are involved in the community, they give back to us and they allow us to give back to them. It’s really a friendship. You call it a partnership, but it is really a friendship. They make it easy to support and get things done.”

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    NEWS INFO

    Date Taken: 07.10.2018
    Date Posted: 12.27.2018 09:24
    Story ID: 305249
    Location: FORT CAMPBELL , KY, US 

    Web Views: 157
    Downloads: 0

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