News: Bliss Soldiers recognized, new goals set during PIE kickoff
Story by David Poe
FORT BLISS, Texas - Fort Bliss’ School Liaison Office welcomed Bliss Soldiers and El Paso-area educators for a Partners in Education award ceremony and planning session at the Centennial Banquet and Conference Center at East Fort Bliss, Oct. 12.
Though nine units and two individuals were formally recognized for their contributions toward Bliss’ PIE program, 57 units in all participated in the program during the 2009-2010 school year, and all of their work was celebrated during the late morning event.
For 25 years the El Paso community has partnered with Bliss troops in the spirit of “improving quality of education through Soldier involvement, enhancing community relations between the post and the El Paso area, providing role models for students, and improving the quality of education for military family members.” This is done through SLO’s PIE program, where an individual unit is paired up with a participating school and they get the opportunity to build personal relationships to benefit the overall education of students through a multitude of opportunities. Col. Joseph Simonelli, Fort Bliss Garrison commander, spoke at the event and said he remains impressed by the integrity exhibited by Bliss troops during 2009-2010 in accordance with the PIE program.
“These soldiers are not only committed to their wartime mission, but they’re also committed to the El Paso community,” said Simonelli. “Public education is one of those areas which our soldiers truly make a difference in every day.”
Bliss soldiers remain deployed today in support of better futures for people in Southwest Asia and beyond, and Simonelli said soldiers’ drives to help others don’t end when they’re on American soil.
“[By participating in the PIE program] we want students to see what we’ll expect of them in the future,” said Simonelli, “and only by being good role models can we instill in them what the future should be for them; because what they learn today will shape our future.”
Two soldiers were recognized as “outstanding soldier/volunteers” for their work with PIE during the 2009-2010 school year.
Called a “can do” person by the educators who nominated him, Sgt. Maj. Raul Hernandez, a soldier from the U.S. Army Sergeants Major Academy, was thanked for single-handedly running USASMA’s PIE program with three different schools.
Sgt. Jerome King, a soldier from 1st Battalion, 41st Infantry Regiment, 3rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division, was also recognized for his selfless service to El Paso-area students. Educators he worked with said the “straight and stalwart” soldier “showed great dedication and commitment by going above and beyond while working on many projects undertaken by his unit.”
“First to fire” soldiers from 3rd Bn., 43rd Air Defense Artillery Regt., 11th Air Defense Artillery Bde. were recognized for logging 1,746 volunteer hours at Dr. Nixon Elementary School, an El Paso Independent School District facility, during the 2009-2010 school year. Two other units, Headquarters and Headquarters Battery, 11th ADA Bde., and 1st Bn., 36th Inf. Regt., 1st BCT, 1st AD, were also recognized for each logging more than 1,500 and 1,000 hours respectively.
“Outstanding unit” awards went to Alpha Btry., 4th ADA Artillery Regt., 11th ADA Bde., whose year-long work was highlighted by their role in East Point Elementary School’s Operation Santa Claus program, and 2nd Bn., 356th Regt. 5th Armored Bde., 1st Army Division West soldiers were thanked for “helping students build self esteem” and being “good, positive role models” at their PIE school.
Two more units from 1st AD were also recognized in the “outstanding project” category, along with another from 32nd Army Air and Missile Defense Command.
“Mustang” soldiers from 125th Brigade Support Battalion, 3rd IBCT, 1st AD, were bestowed with the “General’s Award,” the last award of the morning. Antonio Baca, Bliss’ school liaison officer, said the award went to the unit who had the “strongest partnership in terms of the reciprocal relationship between the soldiers and the school.” During 2009-2010, the partnership between the Mustangs and Rio Bravo Middle School gave birth to initiatives such as goal-setting activities, historical holiday observations, tutoring services and activities promoting literacy on campus.
After the award ceremony, unit and school representatives broke off into smaller groups to plan functions for the 2010-2011 school year and solidify their shared goals for their students.
U.S. Army 1st Lt. Nicole Prescott, 125th BSB’s medical logistics office and Bn. PIE liaison said approximately 100 Mustang soldiers devoted time during the 2009-2010 school year, and a lot them volunteered for multiple projects because they enjoyed it. She added that, while her unit appreciated the award they received, supporting educators and the El Paso community as a whole is itself a great reward.
“For us, giving back to the El Paso community in appreciation for the support they show [the Army] is important, but also to be influential role models for the students,” said Prescott. “Also, I think it’s important for us to drive home the lessons taught by the teachers.”
A year into their partnership, she also said she feels the Rio Bravo students and teachers aren’t the only beneficiaries of the PIE pairing.
“We talk about putting presentations together and we rehearse them,” said Prescott. “I think [participating in the PIE program] builds confidence in the soldiers and they get a great feeling from changing someone’s life.”