GATESVILLE — Right before school let out for the summer last week, dozens of soldiers descended on Gatesville Elementary School to spend a day playing and working out with students.
To promote health, fitness and summer fun, members of the 166th Aviation Brigade partnered with their adopted school in planning and executing a field day for more than 400 second- and third-graders.
“This is a fun day to get out and exercise,” said Tilli Dean, the school’s physical education teacher and overall coordinator of the event.
Normally, two members of the 166th Aviation Brigade visit the Gatesville Elementary students during their lunch hour once a week. But, for this event, between 40 and 50 soldiers came out to support and participate in the fun.
Groups of soldiers worked at stations including jump rope, wiffle ball, hula hoop and free dance. The children, wearing different colored T-shirts to identify groups, cycled through the stations, staying at each one until signaled by bullhorn to rotate.
Although the aviators had hoped to fly helicopters to the school for the children to get in and explore on the ground, logistics prevented it.
However, the substitute — dinosaur-sized mine-resistant, ambush-protected vehicles — proved to be popular. The children circled them in awe, then took turns trying on a soldier’s helmet, all while asking a wide array of questions about the military.
“The teachers and the kids loved the field day event last year,” said Dean, and were “excited to have (the soldiers) back.”