Shattering myths: Tour teaches educators about opportunities, benefits and life in the Army
Story by Adam Garlington on 08/04/2019
American schoolchildren spend about a third of their day for the majority of the year inside a teacher’s classroom. It’s no surprise that educators are influential figures in a child’s early life. The vital role a teacher plays in shaping the minds of future generations comes with great responsibility. That responsibility is to expose their students to and counsel their students about all potential paths that lead to future success.
Educators must be knowledgeable about the different paths to success, so they can accurately and effectively counsel their students. There is one path to success that many educators and people in general know little or nothing about. It is the Army, which is why the Baton Rouge Recruiting Battalion (BRRB) conducted a tour for 15 educators from Louisiana, Mississippi and Tennessee at the Maneuver Center of Excellence in Fort Benning, Ga., during the summer.
“The educator’s tour is designed to destroy myths about the Army and give our educators a first-person view of what it is like to transition from a civilian volunteer into a Soldier,” Jerrick Hornbeak, BRRB education services specialist, said. “They see what it is like when the recruits arrive at the reception battalion, and we take them all the way through to basic training graduation. Then, we show them what day-to-day life is like for a Soldier on base.”
The tour started at the reception battalion so the educators could begin their journey with the same experience future Soldiers receive when they arrive at Ft. Benning. The educators received briefs as they walked through the different stages of in-processing. They toured barracks and attended a Basic Combat Training graduation ceremony to complete their view of Initial Entry Training before seeing what life is like for a Soldier in the Army.
They began their adventure by immersing themselves in Army technology with Close Combat Tactical Trainers (CCTT) and Virtual Battlespace 3 (VBS3), the Army’s premier first-person simulation game, at the Clarke Simulation Center on post. The educators conducted a dismounted infantry operation with VBS3 and fire mission with Abrams Tank and Bradley Fighting Vehicle CCTTs, which are interconnected virtual simulators that replicate the controls and interiors of Army vehicles.
“My students are visual learners,” Susan Farris, director of secondary and career technical education for Lauderdale County Schools in Tennessee, said. “They will respond to something like the virtual battle station if they get to see it.”
Fortunately for Farris, local Army recruiters can request the Mission Support Battalion’s assets, such as a STEM, medical, aviation, adventure and interactive semitrailers, to bring hands-on and visual experiences to students. If the semi-trailer trucks are too large, there are smaller trailer assets, which include all of the above plus distracted driving, and smaller static displays too. She and other educators said their school systems are promoting technical and vocational education as a path to employment, and the Army’s assets can help with that initiative.
“My students are in a small rural county,” Farris, a 29-year veteran in education, said. “They deal with poverty. Many of my children have never been out of the district. It’s my job to show them the world doesn’t end at the border of Lauderdale County. Their lives dictated what they think is possible. They have never seen the choices and opportunities that Army life can offer them.”
Educators learned there are many opportunities for Soldiers to further their education without accumulating debt during a briefing at the post education center. The briefing discussed the College Loan Repayment Program, which repays up to $65,000 in student loans for qualified Soldiers. It also explained how the Army wants its Soldiers to pursue personal and professional self-development goals with the Tuition Assistance Program that gives Soldiers $250 per semester hour and $4,500 per year for voluntary off-duty civilian education programs.
The learning continued with a discussion about the GI Bill, which provides full tuition for public universities, a housing stipend and $1,000 a year for books and supplies. Then, the focus shifted to the Partnership for Youth Success Program, an enlistment option that guarantees Soldiers a job interview with corporations, companies and public sector agencies after completing their Army service.
The education center brief concluded with an explanation about how the Soldier for Life Transition Assistance Program helps Soldiers translate their job skills, training and experiences into rewarding civilian careers after Army service. The successful Army alumni produced through this program are living advertisements for why the Army is an excellent career choice for America’s youth.
The Nation’s youth can navigate high school with the Army’s March2Success website, a free, self-paced online course designed to help students graduate from high school and prepare for transitioning to college. Johnny Jones, the assistant vice president for academic affairs and dean of the University College at Mississippi Valley State University said he uses the course to help his students achieve academic success at the collegiate level.
Jones, a 19-year veteran in higher education, said the average college student acquires debt while taking 5 1/2 years to complete a bachelor’s degree, which is why he counsels some of his students to take a semester off and join the Army Reserve in the summer. Students gain college credit for their military training, which substitutes for the lost semester, and they acquire financial assistance through their Army service. He said this path helps students graduate on time and debt free while molding themselves into better citizens.
After the education center brief, the group toured the Martin Army Community Hospital on post to see the quality of health care available to Soldiers and their families. They also received a guided tour of the National Infantry Museum in Columbus, Ga. The museum honors the legacy and valor of the U.S. Army infantryman, and it emphasizes the values that define him: Loyalty, Duty, Respect, Selfless Service, Honor, Integrity and Personal Courage. The Army Values impressed the group and became a significant interest to one of the few middle school educators on the tour.
Discipline and respect are major focuses of middle schools as they train their students to become young adults, Jessica Scott, assistant principal of Grand Caillou Middle School in Houma, La., said. Implementing the Army Values into her school’s culture will promote personal growth and increase the achievement of her students. She wants to increase the Army’s presence at her school because she worked with veterans during her 21 years in education and seen how their discipline and dedication to the community positively impacts student achievement.
Scott said Soldiers are not very visible in her small community out in the bayous, so her school is a place where they can feel welcome and serve as mentors for her students. She believes Soldiers interacting and sharing stories about their careers will be a significant experience for her students.
“If we don’t communicate what the Army has to offer, we’re putting limitations on our students and their personal success,” Scott said. “Through the experience I had at this educational tour, I realized that our students need to establish core values of student success. I believe we can implement some of the visions presented on the tour to our students. They will be exposed to new opportunities for furthering their education and personal growth. If we look into the core values of the Army and we are able to put those elements into our middle school culture, our students will grow.”
The BRRB has eight recruiting companies, Baton Rouge, La., Lafayette, La., New Orleans, Hattiesburg, Miss., Jackson, Miss., Tupelo, Miss., and Memphis, Tenn., and 45 recruiting stations. Reach out to your local recruiting station to schedule a presentation for you and your staff to discuss ways the Army can broaden and supplement your students’ educational experiences. Contact Adam Garlington at 225-769-8715, firstname.lastname@example.org, or Jennifer Villaume at 225-757-7281, Jennifer.email@example.com, for help with connecting to your local recruiting company and station. The Army has so much to offer the Nation’s youth. Let us work together and prepare our youth for future success.