The officers who live and work at Fort Leonard Wood strive to work hard for their country, and many of them work just as hard to improve their community while they are here at the installation. The Engineer Senior Leadership Class is one such group of officers who regularly find ways to make the lives of citizens in the region a little better.
Each group of students that cycle through the course selects a community betterment project. The class is given an opportunity to search on their own to find a project to be a part of while volunteering their time. These projects can bring officers as far as they’re willing to travel, from Phelps and Pulaski counties to St. Louis. The team is given free reign to decide on how they to work on improving the lives of citizens.
This year SSG Stacy Cain found a project close to home, one that will positively affect families in the immediate area. The playground equipment at the Waynesville City Park has stood since the 70’s, according to SSG Cain. She and the rest of the Engineer Senior Leadership Class will be working to improve the playground by implementing beautification projects and helping start the installation of new playground equipment.
“We had about a week or two to decide what we wanted to do,” said SSG Clark Bryan. “We voted on it and decided this would be the best project to help out the community.
Clark explained the beautification part of the process, which the officers will be helping with this Saturday. The team will be cleaning the area, cutting down shrubbery currently in the way and other overgrowth detrimental to the playground to make it a more family-oriented area.
“While we’re here, this is our home base as engineers. We want to give back to our surrounding community,” said Clark. “With me being a new dad, being able to provide this playground to the kids in the community is the biggest reward.”
SFC Jeffrey McPherson, the instructor for the course, will be getting hands-on with his students for the project.
“It’s good to have a relationship between the military and the local community,” he said. “Community service is a good thing, you get to show the community that there’s more to the service and service members than what they see on the news.
SFC McPherson said that even though the service project only lasts a certain amount of hours, each cycle of the class he’ll see his student officers come back to volunteer extra hours or devote future weekends. After a previous project at an animal shelter, SFC McPherson said many students became regular volunteers.
SSG Stacy Cain, who found and selected the project explained that even though the Engineer Senior Leadership Course is required for the officers, going out and finding ways to help the community and the region comes directly from the students’ desire to help.
“We don’t do it for recognition,” said SSG Cain, explaining how the support of their instructor has encouraged them to “get out there and do something that’s going to be long-lasting.”
The new playground at the Waynesville City Park, called the Little Heroes Playground, will be accessible for handicapped children and their parents, and have features to help autistic children enjoy the playground as well.