Last Updated: Jan 8th, 2015 - 07:42:25

Students get glimpse into other side of military
By Caitlin Davis, Senior Staff Writer
Feb 18, 2013, 14:34

photo by Caitlin Davis Students stood and watched a K-9 demonstration given by the Armed Forces on Friday afternoon at Thomas Dale.

CHESTERFIELD — Amber Wood, a junior at Thomas Dale High School, stood at the National Guard tent on Friday afternoon and spoke with John Lewis, station commander for recruiting in Richmond. She was ready, ready to move onto a new chapter in her life after she left the hallways of high school.

“At first I was into the Marines because I thought it was the coolest and the best one and now there’s a lot of other options and I think it’s a good opportunity to go to school.”

Wood said her inspiration to join the armed forces lies within her younger sister, Mckenzie, who has been diagnosed with autism.

“I feel like no one is there for her, helping her, and I really want to do something with autistic people, like try and help them,” Wood said.

Wood got the chance to explore the doors open to her on Friday morning as Thomas Dale held their first “Military Awareness Day.” The two-day event began on Thursday with the Fort Lee 392nd Army Band performing for students and on Friday with the armed forces having interactive instructional activities for students.
photo by Caitlin Davis Students at Thomas Dale got the chance to control the military vehicle, “The Avenger”.

The activities included a rock climbing wall, a chance for students to see K-9 units, armored vehicles, and a display of a combat surgical hospital. Representatives from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point and Virginia Military Institute were also on campus to talk to students.

Pamela Lumsden, principal of Thomas Dale, said the event was a “wonderful opportunity” for students to experience lessons outside of the classroom.

“The key piece is it brings the relevance into instruction,” Lumsden said, noting the classroom discussions with military personnel included law enforcement, the importance of language, and real world applications of the sciences and technology.  “The students begin to see what they’re learning in high school has a practical application in the real world.”

Staff Sgt. Rashad Harris, who was part of one of the K-9 unit demonstrations, knows what it means to choose a path to the military right out of high school. Harris, who joined the military in 2000 when he was 18, said it was a path that helped him move forward in his life.

“I didn’t grow up in the best neighborhood,” Harris said. “For some people it’s an outlet. I tried to separate myself from people I grew up with, family members that would always get me into trouble, so I decided to take a different step in life and go in the military.”
photo by Caitlin Davis Staff Sargeant Rashad Harris and his dog, Sara, demonstrate for students how K-9 units and robots help with bomb detection in the military.

While the demonstrations came second nature to Harris, he said it is good to get out in the community and show the students that being in the military is much more than just deploying overseas.

“It’s actually good to get out in the community and let the future leaders of this world see what the military is all about,” Harris said. “... We’re here just like regular law enforcement, pretty much public service to go out and show people different skill sets we all have in the military.”

Lewis said teaching students that versatility was a big component of the event. He said many of the skills taught in the military are transferable to many other jobs.

“There are a lot of different career fields that have direct civilian occupancy,” Lewis said, giving the example of the military hazmat team that had a display set up that morning. “A lot of people that do this job in the military can go right off and work for fire departments and they already know all their hazmat stuff. They can work for other emergency operations, state agencies, local agencies, even federal agencies like FEMA.”
photo by Caitlin Davis The military hazmat team gives a lesson to members of Thomas Dale’s JROTC students.

Wood has already begun to take that next step towards the military. She has taken her Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery, a test used by the Department of Defense to determine the abilities of those wishing to enlist. Wood said she is still not sure what she wants to do in the military, but what she does know is the military will give her the opportunity to get a steady job, something she said her father never had.

“I just want to have something steady and I just want to be able to support my family, like I don’t want to have to depend on, like right now I’m in cosmetology school and I don’t want to have to depend on that forever. I really want to go to college and have a good job and help people,” Wood said.

Though the day cemented for Wood her desire to go into the armed forces, Lumsden said the day was not for recruitment but instead for a learning experience.

“The purpose is to make students aware again of the hands-on or applications of learning and so often we give them facts and regurgitate facts and they don’t get to see how they’re used in the real world, so that’s the key,” Lumsden said.

The Military Awareness Day event also made its way to other high schools in the area that week, with stops at James River High School, Monacan High School and Manchester High School.
photo by Caitlin Davis Military Awareness Day included a rock climbing wall for the students.

“It’s really fun,” Wood said. “I never knew it would be this interesting. When the guy was in our classroom, I could think of a lot of questions to ask him and he was really nice.”

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