WIESBADEN, Germany (Army News Service, Dec. 4, 2007) – Recognizing that deployments affect not only Soldiers and their Families but their supporters, Wiesbaden Army Airfield hosted a workshop and tour to show Department of Defense Dependent Schools staff members the challenges Soldiers face.
"Many children of 1st Armored Division Soldiers deployed downrange are going to have three traumatic events in 15 months," said Col. Ray Graham, U.S. Army Garrison Hessen/Wiesbaden commander, while hosting the tour for some 85 teachers, administrators and other faculty members.
The trio of occurrences, Col. Graham noted, happen when servicemembers first deploy, when they return on mid-tour leave and when they "come back again and find all of the changes that have happened in their Families."
"I've always had a great deal of respect for our military members, but having this experience about their training and daily life has deepened my appreciation of them," said Laura Votipka-Albrecht, a Wiesbaden Middle School teacher. "It was a fabulous experience. I really do appreciate the command taking the time to recognize the school's role and to educate us on military life."
After an introduction and brief question-and-answer session on the 1st Armor Div. deployment and a community-support update, faculty members split into groups for a look at Army life, ranging from using the Engagement Skills Trainer to wearing protective body armor at the Central Issue Facility.
"It was not a normal day for me," said Tom Gothia, a social-studies teacher at Wiesbaden Middle School. "It was, however, one that makes me ever more mindful of what our children and their parents live, and that makes me a better teacher."
"This was my first opportunity to sample what being a Soldier means," said Judy Markeson, a Hainerberg Elementary School teacher. "I was stunned by how heavy all that body armor is. I couldn't imagine wearing that outfit for five minutes, much less 10 hours. Our afternoon of 'playing Soldier' really provided insight – perhaps another step leading toward even better understanding and working with our Families."
"The participants volunteered to do this," Col. Graham noted, explaining that the DODDS staff members were making an extra effort to expand their knowledge of military life. "We tried to give them a cross section of some of the things they might find interesting or useful."
Wiesbaden Middle School teacher Kari Willman summed up what many teachers expressed that day: "Thank you to the Soldiers and their Families who sacrifice so much every day to give us the life we live each day."