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NCOA gives back to community

Soldiers try out the swing set they installed as part of their NCOA class volunteer project at the VFW Post 6683 in Enterprise recently. (Courtesy Photo)

Soldiers try out the swing set they installed as part of their NCOA class volunteer project at the VFW Post 6683 in Enterprise recently. (Courtesy Photo)

Published: March 28, 2014

FORT RUCKER, Ala. (March 28, 2014) -- Life as a Soldier is about commitment in service to one’s nation, and Soldiers of Fort Rucker’s NCO Academy makes sure to extend that service to their local community.

The NCOA’s various classes serve the community through many volunteering projects, making sure that Soldiers stay true to the three characteristics of being a Soldier: competence, character and commitment, said Staff Sgt. Mark Buhl, NCO Academy.

“We do a lot of community projects that vary for class to class,” he said. “Seeing us out there volunteering our time for a local organization is extremely important. This is just our way of giving back to the community.”

Recently graduated Class 14-001’s project took Soldiers to the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 6683 in Enterprise where they helped with heavy lifting, painting and repairs, and even constructed a swing set that was donated by the community.

“It’s always nice to help out these veterans, and we love to go out there and build it up and make it more presentable,” said Buhl. “We try to get out there every cycle and help them with whatever it is they need.”

 The classes cycle three times a year and each class chooses what type of project it wants to participate in, but the staff sergeant said that the VFW is always high on the list.

“With our class, we give them a bit of an idea of what they can do and a lot of times we bring up the VFW,” said Buhl. “A lot of the VFW members can’t really get out and do a lot of the things they’d like to, so we like to help them out. It’s kind of cool to listen to their stories and hear the sacrifices they made during that time.”

Robert Cooper, VFW post 6683 commander, said he’s grateful to see the younger generation of Soldiers helping out those who came before them.

“It means a lot to me personally, and I try to be there and help them as much as I can, but I’m 72 years old and some of our guys can’t physically get out there,” he said. “Seeing them out there reminds me of my earlier days.”

One of the bigger projects that Cooper said he was happy to get help with was painting the VFW’s post number on the roof of its building, which he hopes will help the visibility of the post.

“That was very important to me,” he said. “A lot of people in Enterprise don’t even know we’ve got a VFW, which was chartered back in 1946.

“We’ve got some signs to show that we’re there, but we’re kind of off the road, so we’re hard to see,” he continued. “The idea was to have our post number, 6683, painted on the roof so that people flying overhead would be able to see our headquarters’ sign from the air.”

The members of the VFW aren’t the only ones benefitting from the projects, however, said Cooper.

“This is a good learning experience for the Soldiers of the NCO Academy because we provide somewhat of a mentorship for those guys,” he said. “They all seem very hungry to talk to the veterans. They want to know what we did during our time in the Army and where we’ve been.

“We’ve got members from all different services at our post, and a lot of the Soldiers want to know how it was flying Hueys in Vietnam and things like that,” he continued. “They’re always very eager to assist us, and we always make sure to give them a good meal and good fellowship when we get through.”

Buhl said it’s important to help out the veterans at the VFW in order to honor the sacrifices they’ve made during their time in the armed services, and that volunteering teaches the Soldiers a valuable lesson.

“The Army is 100 percent volunteer, and volunteering is the cornerstone of the Army in my opinion,” he said. “It’s always good to rally everyone together and volunteer in the community, and maybe they can take some of that commitment and take it back to their unit and, essentially, pay it forward.”

This article was originally published at

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