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NEWS | Oct. 26, 2015

Local Army Reserve Soldiers work to improve their community

By Maj. Ruth Castro 1st Mission Support Command

PONCE, Puerto Rico - Our community is where we live and where we associate ourselves with. Being part of the Active Guard and Reserve (AGR) program, Soldiers have to leave their communities and adopt a new one at their new duty location. As Soldiers of the Army Reserve, we try to give back to the local community in any way possible as it is our community as well. 

Members of the 613th Military Police Company, Juana Diaz, Puerto Rico, have been doing just that. Over the course of two weeks, they have been hard at work assisting the community and its members. 

Along with the 35th Signal Battalion on Oct. 9, the 613th helped a local community member by restoring her residence after it had been burglarized while she was in the hospital recovering from surgery. The local municipality wanted to help out and asked the Soldiers for assistance.

“My intent is to provide volunteer service in and around Juana Diaz and the surrounding area,” said Capt. Benjamin Kim, commander of the 613th MP Company. “Soldiers in this company are comprised of citizens from within your communities.  Selfless service is a core attribute in all my men and women. In an effort to build relationships, I am continually seeking opportunities to donate time and services to the local community.”

On Oct. 13, the 613th Soldiers volunteered their time in support of a request from a local school. The school was on a short suspense to clear the library in order to initiate a remodeling project so these Soldiers responded without hesitation. 

Sgt. 1st Class William E. Vandiver, Operations noncommissioned officer for the 613th MP Company, reflected on the unit’s community volunteer service. 

“This is my community now and it will continue to be my community for the next couple of years,” he said. “As Soldiers, we try to help the community, it is what the Army Values are built on and we take those values outside of the Army to let the community know that we are here, and we are good.”

Vandiver also shared that his hopes are for the community to understand more about the Army Reserve and realize that Soldiers are human too. It is not just what is seen on television or in the movies, we are mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers and community members. “What we do means something and being able to impact the community with our skills and mindset is great.”

As Citizen Soldiers, members of the Army Reserve often volunteer on their own time to help out in schools or youth sports programs. 

Sgt. Susan Colon, 613th MP Company, is an active volunteer in her daughter’s school, El Tuque Head Start. In recognition of Federal Day, the school wanted to show the children the variety of federal agencies in the community and asked to participate.

“This is so exciting for us, this is the first time we have a visit like this in our head start,” said Yanelly Rodriguez-Rivera, school teacher at the head start. “This is going to be an experience that our students are never going to forget.”

Children, ages 2-5, lined up outside the head start and they beamed with excitement as they talked to the Soldiers and even had the opportunity to wear a Kevlar helmet and load bearing vest. They anxiously lined up to take turns getting on the deuce and a half truck and proudly smiled for pictures. 

Colon expressed how excited she was to be a part of what the children are learning and proud that her daughter also attends this school.

“The smiles on the children’s faces is worth everything we do here today,” said Vandiver. As the children were headed back to class, they looked happy and waved to the all the Soldiers. 

It is important to been seen in the community and get recognized for what Soldiers do outside of the regular military work day. What do you do to help your community?