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NEWS | Sept. 12, 2018

Community Outreach Day: Uniting Army Reserve Soldiers and El Paso

By Sgt. Christopher Hernandez 345th Public Affairs Detachment

Although the overcast skies indicated a potential torrent of rainfall throughout the day, approximately 250 residents of the local El Paso community were not deterred from participating in the third annual Community Outreach Day at the Air Assault Obstacle Course at Fort Bliss on Aug. 25. 

Soldiers of the 210th Regional Support Group (Aguadilla, Puerto Rico), 1st Mission Support Command and the 1st Armored Division Iron Training Detachment organized the event, with additional support by volunteers from the Child Crisis Center, Big Brothers Big Sisters, El Paso Police Department, and the Police Explorers.

The attendance eclipsed last year’s turnout by more than double, attributed mainly to expanded contributions from both civilian and military organizations.

“We started the very first year with about 60 children with their parents, and a lot of mentors from Big Brothers Big Sisters and the Sergeant Major Academy,” said Capt. Jerald Bodden, logistics officer of the 210th RSG, 1st MSC. “Since the first year, we’ve expanded to churches, local groups and other organizations that show their support for the Army. However, this is the biggest event that we’ve had so far because of the 210th RSG, their chain-of-command, and everyone else involved here.”

Air Assault Cadre from the 1st AD ITD manned the Staff Sergeant Moseley Tower, setting up rappel harnesses and giving instructions prior to each participant’s 50-foot descent. Meanwhile, volunteers of the 210th RSG served as safety officers for the other sections of the obstacle course.

Sgt. Nefty De La Rosa, training noncommissioned officer of the Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 210th RSG, 1st MSC, said that safety is always a critical element in events like these.

“This is a selfless service to them and to us as well,” De La Rosa said. “We help them through it so that it can be a fun day with safety (enforced) at all times.”

Bodden elaborated that these events were not only intended to be recreational spectacles, but to also foster teamwork and solidarity between the local community and the Army.

“The idea is the bridge the gap, bring people together, and let them see some of the fun stuff that we do,” Bodden said. “The obstacle course itself is a team and confidence builder, and we made sure that we introduced that to the families and at-risk youth in order to build their confidence and make them realize that if Soldiers can do this, they too can negotiate these obstacles.”

Maria Burciaga, program specialist for Big Brothers Big Sisters, said that it was great opportunity for the youth attendees to immerse themselves in this experience.

“The best part of this entire event is our interaction with the Soldiers and having that one-on-one time with them,” Burciaga said. “A lot of kids in the program want to become Soldiers in the future, so interacting with them will make a big impact on them as they see what it is to be a Soldier.”

When she drew comparisons from last year to this year’s iteration, Maria expressed that there were a number of improvements. 

“Last year, they did not have the food trucks or the Soldiers (stationed) at the obstacle courses,” Maria said. “This year was a lot better, and I loved the way that everything was set up in where there were a lot more Soldiers helping the kids out.”

Bodden echoed similar sentiments, stating that the magnitude of contributions from all volunteer organizations resulted in the biggest outreach event yet.

“This is the absolute main reason why we’ve had so much support,” Bodden said. “For everyone that has helped us out in the past, we thank them for their services and for helping us out and making this happen,” Bodden said.

Although the date has not yet been confirmed, there are plans to orchestrate another Community Outreach Day at Fort Bliss in the near future.