With the school year nearing an end, 740 Eastern Hills Middle School students and the III Corps Headquarters Battalion rear detachment took to the field Friday for a military-themed activity day.

For the fourth year, the Harker Heights school and its Phantom Battalion adopt-a-school partner combined for a day of play and a slice of military life.

Students dressed in grade-specific T-shirts, with sixth-graders in red, seventh-graders in green and eighth-graders in yellow, as they moved through stations set up on the parade grounds alongside the III Corps Headquarters building.

They sweated it out at tug-of-war and took part in relays carrying a litter, did grenade target practice with soaked beanbags and rolled tires, hauled sandbags and scaled a climbing wall.

“I like it,” said eighth-grader Jesse Lovejoy, who took part for the third year in a row.

“Since we’re so close to Fort Hood, we can come out here and do this,” she said, noting that the grenade throwing was her favorite activity. “I hit the target, so it’s cool.”

The school and headquarters unit have forged an especially close bond, with soldiers taking time to serve as tutors and to help with career day and other major activities.

The students’ day on the post was a way for soldiers to give a piece of themselves, showing students their workplace and a taste of the physical side of the Army.

Staff Sgt. Matthew Garwood supervised an obstacle course where students took turns weaving between cones, then dragged a sandbag that two had to carry together, then flipped a huge tire end-over-end, low crawled and sprinted to the finish.

He laughed as students finished, winded by the course.

“This builds teamwork, cohesion and confidence,” he said, noting that the course was a miniature version of what soldiers actually experience. “We enjoy being able to give back to the community like this.”

“I think it’s cool,” said Sgt. 1st Class Samantha Hinson as she cheered on students at the obstacle course.

“We go into their environment and see them and help them and now we can see them here,” she said. “They seem to enjoy it as much as we do. It gets us out and we get to show them what we do, at least a taste.”

“It’s really a celebration after working hard in class and finishing the state testing,” said assistant principal Jeremy Key.

“It celebrates our good relationship with Fort Hood,” Key said. “Some of them have families in the military and it’s good for them to see soldiers giving back like this.”

“I just like being here,” said Lovejoy of the day out of school and in the sun.

“We really don’t look forward to it because it’s hot, but when we get here, it’s fun,” she said. “The soldiers are nice. They are good at giving us directions and fortunately they don’t laugh at us when we fall down.”


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