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Middle School Students Support U.S. Troops in Afghan Theater

By Lt. Col. Jeffrey Bady, USA
Special to American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, June 3, 2003 – "Supporting Our Troops in Afghanistan" has developed into more than a service-learning project for a group of middle-schoolers in Maryland.

Students at Westland Middle School in Bethesda, Md., started off with the theme and a project to create care packages for U.S. service members in Afghanistan. But it grew from there: They linked up with real-world troops to give added realism to their project.

School principal Ursula Hermann suggested having service members talk to the students about their experiences while serving in Afghanistan. Someone contacted the 249th Engineer Battalion from Fort Belvoir, Va., a unit that has recently returned from Afghanistan. Maj. Steven Cade, executive officer, expressed an interest in taking part in the students' learning process.

On May 22, 2003, Cade brought not only a multimedia presentation, but also four unit members with him: Chief Warrant Officer Jason Carlo, Sgt. 1st Class Kevin McCrea, Staff Sgt. Nicholas Mapp and Spc. Martin Brown. Together, they briefed students on the culture, customs and uniqueness of Afghanistan.

Then the soldiers displayed some equipment they used while in Afghanistan. School staff members said the students were excited about meeting soldiers with real life experiences.

Students' questions were mostly about the climate, Afghan children's activities and the lifestyle of the Afghan people. After the presentation, the students constructed the care packages, containing baby wipes, disposable razors and cameras, candy, computer game software, and other personal items.

The 249th Engineer Battalion provides utility power wherever needed around the globe. They have deployed to the Middle East, Asia, Africa and South America. They also support the Federal Emergency Management Agency during disaster relief efforts. The unit has the capability to supply enough power for a small city.

(Lt. Col. Jeffrey Bady is an Army reservist currently serving as a public affairs staff officer in the Office of the Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff. He is assigned to the 81st Regional Support Command, Birmingham, Ala.)

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Click photo for screen-resolution imageStaff Sgt. Nicholas Mapp shows explained the mechanics of the protective vest required for all personnel to wear because of the hostile environment. Photo by Lt. Col. Jeffrey Bady, USAR.   
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Click photo for screen-resolution imageChief Warrant Officer Jason Carlo explains to students at Westland Middle School, Bethesda, Md., how the protective mask works. Carlo is assigned to the 249th Engineer Battalion, Fort Belvoir, Va., which just returned from Afghanistan. Photo by Lt. Col. Jeffrey Bady, USAR.   
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Click photo for screen-resolution imageChief Warrant Officer Jason Carlo explains to students at Westland Middle School, Bethesda, Md., about the equipment they used in Afghanistan as Staff Sgt. Nicholas Mapp looks on. Both are assigned to the 249th Engineer Battalion, Fort Belvoir, Va., which just returned from duty in Afghanistan. Photo by Lt. Col. Jeffrey Bady, USAR.   
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