By Todd Martin
Special to the Hood Herald
A military unit in transition handed over a special partnership Monday to a unit that is all about transition.
With soldiers from the outgoing 15th Sustainment Command on one side and the newly formed Warrior Transition Brigade on the other, third-grader Cagen Williams pulled a string, revealing a freshly installed sign.
At the front of Clarke Elementary School, the new Adopt-A-School sign identifies the Warrior Transition Brigade as the school's new partner unit.
The brigade, which helps wounded soldiers reintegrate and heal, takes over a longtime adoption partnership from the Wagonmasters, a unit relocating to Fort Bliss in El Paso.
Col. Larry Phelps, commander of the outgoing sustainment command said it was a moment of mixed feelings letting go of a group of students and educators he said made a difference in the lives of the soldiers that volunteered at the school.
He called Clarke and the other schools on Fort Hood the most important places on the installation.
"We think that all we do is what's important on Fort Hood, but it's not," said Phelps, who was part of the Adopt-A-School partnership with Clarke going back to 2001.
"These teachers take care of our most important resource," he said.
Col. Paul Hossenlopp, commander of the Warrior Transition Brigade said the partnership with Clarke, a Killeen ISD elementary school on the post, was a chance for his soldiers to give back to a community that has embraced them.
He said the whole Central Texas region has given much to soldiers seeking to heal and reintegrate into the military or civilian life.
"This is our first opportunity to give back and to partner with this school," said Hossenlopp following the sign unveiling at the front of the school.
He said soldiers would be available to work with teachers, reading to students and working on academic activities, as well as supporting campus wide events.
Clarke principal Bill Diab agreed the ceremony marked a bittersweet transition, but said the school was benefiting from "an awesome unit" stepping up to partner with the school.
"We are here for you as much as you are here for us," Diab told the soldiers standing outside the school.
He pointed to the class of third-graders selected to take part in the ceremony and said they are the future leaders of our country and community.
"What you put in will come out in the positive," he said of the value of investing time in the lives of children.
Lt. Col. Paula Lodi of the 15th Sustainment Command said reports from soldiers and from the school indicate both children and soldiers benefit from time together.
"The school tells us kids get so much out of seeing the soldiers here," said Lodi, who has two children of her own and has experienced deployment.
"Being here around kids is tremendous," she said. "We get as much or more out of this than they do. When we get to impact other (soldiers') kids it is hugely rewarding."