October 13, 2004

Guard Soldiers help with local high school


A soldier from the Virginia Guard Data Processing Unit works on putting together a computer for a local high school. (Contributed photo)

By Capt. Lesley Kipling
Unit Public Affairs Representative

Citizen Soldiers demonstrated their commitment to their community by setting up over 600 new computers at Battlefield High School this summer. Soldiers in the Virginia National Guard Data Processing Unit helped set up Prince Williams County’s first Information Technology High School.

It felt “good to be part of the community” said Spec. Steven Leo. Leo along with a dozen other soldiers was involved in every step of the installation process, from unloading the boxes off the trucks, transporting them to the classrooms, setting up the hardware, configuring the software, bringing the computers onto the network, installing printer drivers and finally hauling the boxes to the trash.

The school’s full time network engineer, Carl Binsted, estimated that a professional crew would have cost the county $40 to $50 per computer, over $30,000 total. Binsted spoke highly of the soldiers he worked with. “They didn’t need any training, they new exactly what to do to set up the systems,” he said. “Working with the National Guard has been an extremely positive experience.”

For the soldiers, many of whom work in the IT industry, this was not only an opportunity to serve the community, but also to fine-tune their own skills. Staff Sgt. Alexander Fernandez teaches classes on computer software as a civilian. But this mission gave him a chance to enhance those skills by being involved in building a network from scratch. Fernandez pointed out this opportunity is a “great resume builder.” While their computer skills were the primary reason they were called to help, the soldiers had ample opportunity to demonstrate their physical fitness as well. In just two days the soldiers unloaded 1600 boxes from the trucks and delivered them to the classrooms.

Principle Jack Parker facilitated the National Guard support through the Virginia Adopt-a-School program, which pairs Guard units with local high schools. At Battlefield High School, Guard soldiers can share their experiences of working as civilians in the IT field as well as the opportunities they’ve had serving the National Guard.

Parker, who is also the Command Sergeant Major of the Data Processing Unit, sees this arrangement as mutually beneficial. “Not only do the soldiers enrich the students’ education and provide assistance to the school, but this program also draws attention to the opportunities available to students who are interested in the National Guard,” Parker said.

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