GATESVILLE — The Gatesville Primary School and 1st Battalion, 393rd Infantry Regiment, 479th Field Artillery Brigade, First Army Division West, have enjoyed a newfound relationship since the start of the year.

Soldiers from the “Coyote Battalion” are finding time to volunteer at the school and participate in classroom activities.

The school’s flexible lab schedules allow soldiers to stop by for any of the daily reading or math labs and sit with kindergarten and first-grade students.

The volunteers work on reading comprehension drills, word pronunciation and math tables with students.

Soldiers can stay for an entire 40-minute lab session, or assist with multiple labs, if they have the time.

Teachers and lab instructors are glad to have the extra help, said kindergarten teacher Darla Wallace.

“There aren’t many schools that can boast about having soldiers come to their school and help with events,” Wallace said.

This growing partnership also has allowed the soldiers to get involved with some of the school’s other activities. Recently, the Coyote Battalion dropped by the school for Centers Day, and in February, soldiers helped out with the school’s Western Day.

Centers Day is held once a month in the reading lab and involves students breaking down into buddy teams to rotate through various activities.

Students and soldiers had a blast when Staff Sgt. Ricardo Najera helped out with puzzles and Sgt. 1st Class Julie Skoda read stories and set up a magnetized house.

During Western Day, members of the Gatesville High School Rodeo Club introduced students to a horse and a goat, in addition to a host of other activities.

Staff Sgt. Matthew Scholten and Staff Sgt. Ty Vincent tried to impress students with some lassoing, while Najera and Staff Sgt. Robert Barhorst got students ready for the rodeo at the bucking bronco station. Staff Sgt. Paula Long kept time and let groups know when to rotate.

Command Sgt. Maj. Richard Henson handed out high-fives and tried to get a physical training session going.

Unfortunately, bad weather drove the Western Day activities inside, except for the horse and goat, which had to settle for the awning at the school’s back door. Teachers conducted indoor stick horse races and led camp fire songs, while Coyote volunteers jumped in to help out and sing along, often out of tune.

“Despite the bad weather and the change of plans, we appreciate having the soldiers around; they’re a great influence on the kids,” said school principal Scott Harper.

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