Story and photo by Staff St. Warren W. Wright Jr.
21st Theater Sustainment Command Public Affairs
More than 90 Kaiserslautern High School students gathered on the Vogelweh Military Complex April 2 to get hands-on familiarization with how Soldiers of the 21st Theater Sustainment Command’s 773rd Civil Support Team, 7th Civil Support Command operate during a range of civil emergency situations.
The event was part of a partnership between the 21st TSC and Kaiserslautern High School that evolved into the Mentor a Student Today program, which affords the command’s Soldiers, civilians and families a range of mentorship opportunities.
The M.A.S.T. program encourages mentoring students in specific content areas such as math, language arts, science, and social studies. Volunteers can also assist teachers in areas such as the Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps, culinary arts, track and field, basketball, drama and theater, as well as with multicultural observances.
Mentoring high school students gives Soldiers an opportunity “to show the community that we’re out there and show them what it is that we do,” said Staff Sgt. Matthew Grande, a Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear survey team chief with the 773rd CST. “It also gives us a chance to show people what kind of an asset they have in the event that something were to happen that might involve us.”
Students were given hands-on experience on the various aspects of the 773rd’s mission, from chemical and biological decontamination procedures, to how the unit operates in a chemical environment using protective suits and equipment.
“We put the students in a (chemical protective) suit to let them check it out and see what it’s like to be in the suit,” Grande said. “Trying to gain their interest was hard in the beginning, but after they started seeing their peers in the suit they started to liven up and became very interested.”
In addition to trying on the protective suits, the students participated in a scenario where they had to identify and test chemical agents while overcoming the difficulties of operating in the suit.
Explosive Ordnance Disposal Soldiers were also on hand to show the participating students equipment used in the detection and disposal of explosives.
“The biggest draw for the students was the bomb suits with EOD,” said Sgt. 1st Class Yabronda Battles, the operations and training NCO with the 773rd. “Everybody wanted to put on the big suit and run from the bomb disposal robot.”
In January, the roles were reversed when 773rd Soldiers attended a chemistry class with the students at Kaiserslautern High School.
“We participated in a classroom exercise and were assigned homework that we had to go home and do,” Battles said. “It was a real eye-opener going back to school and seeing how the kids are today.”
One of the goals of the mentorship program is to illustrate to the high school students how the lessons they learn in school can be useful to them as adults.
“Students who attend a Department of Defense high school have a unique opportunity to get first-hand experience on some of the unique things the military has to offer,” Battles said. “It gives them a chance to see what they do in school relates to a real job in the world.
“If you get a chance to get out there and mentor a kid, do it,” Battles added. “It’s one of the most rewarding things you can do.”