Story by Keith Hayes on 08/08/2019There are some sure-fire ways to identify the end of summer vacation aboard Marine Corps Logistics Base Barstow, California: The Oasis Pool open hours begin to shrink, sunscreen SPF 500 sales plummet, and the annual Back To School Brigade event heralds the beginning of the school year for the children of active-duty military personnel and reservists stationed aboard the base.
The Back To School Brigade began ten years ago as a way to get students stocked up on free school supplies and the means to carry them. It's also an opportunity to get the parents up to speed on what services the school district has to offer.
Adam Diaz, school liaison with MCLB Barstow, along with members of the High Desert Marines, organized the back to school event.
"The back to school program is something we've been doing for ten years now to provide free school supplies for the families of active-duty personnel, Guard and Reservists," Diaz said. "In addition to the school supplies we like to provide the parent's resources for enrollment or transfer or any other event that may affect their children in school."
Most of the school supplies are purchased through Camp Pendleton through a grant from the William Schmidt Trust Fund.
"The trustees administering the grant have never said No, you can't buy those for the school supply event.' They've approved every request I've ever made," Diaz said.
Students could take advantage of the huge amount of supplies and pick up binders, tablets, pens, pencils, sharpeners, glue sticks, backpacks, tape, paperclips, colored pencil sets, binder pouches, note cards, and post-it notes.
In addition there were separate booths set up for the High Desert Marines, which provided most of the backpacks the children stuffed with supplies. There were also booths for Marine Corps Community Services, the lifeguards stationed at the Oasis Pool and Water Park, the Safe Assured ID Program, and others to provide information on services offered by federal, state, and county offices.
"This year, we had 65 students getting backpacks and school supplies. That's about half of what we had last year," Diaz explained. "We had a lot of events happening around the base on August 1st and I believe they detracted from the school supply event."
Ten-year-old Benjamin Holladay was there with his parents and sister. He spoke enthusiastically about the supplies he and his sister gathered.
"This is actually pretty neat, they've got a lot of good stuff," Ben said. His father is a Chief Warrant Officer 3 with the Army and is a helicopter pilot out of the U.S. Army Airfield at Daggett Airport. The unit is attached to the National Training Center out of the Army's Fort Irwin base.
Master Sergeant Tianna Tien was at the Major General James L. Day Center picking up supplies for her 11-year-old daughter Kilynn.
"I was here last year with my daughter," she said. "The amount of work that the base and the High Desert Marines put into this is truly awesome. I think it's a good thing for the children, the parents and the base."