Rappelling, obstacles bring community outreach day to Fort Bliss

(Right) Sgt. Derek Mangelsen, 1st Armored Division Iron Training Detachment cadre, demonstrates the rappelling process to various El Paso organizations, as they await their turn to rappel down the tower at the Air Assault Obstacle Course here Dec. 2. Photos by Capt. Greta S. Fennell, Mobilization Division, DPTMS.

(Right) Sgt. Derek Mangelsen, 1st Armored Division Iron Training Detachment cadre, demonstrates the rappelling process to various El Paso organizations, as they await their turn to rappel down the tower at the Air Assault Obstacle Course here Dec. 2. Photos by Capt. Greta S. Fennell, Mobilization Division, DPTMS.

By Capt. Greta S. Fennell, Mobilization Division, DPTMS:

(El Paso, Texas, Dec. 14, 2017)

The second annual Community Outreach Day drew more than 100 participants from local organizations onto Fort Bliss Dec. 2. Big Brothers Big Sisters, the Child Crisis Center and the Police Explorers of El Paso attended the free event hosted by Soldiers from the Mobilization and Deployment Division and the 1st Armored Division Iron Training Detachment.

Volunteers from the ITD led children as young as 3 years old down the rappel tower and through the obstacle course.

“The opportunity to introduce children and adults from the greater El Paso community to some of the training conducted by Fort Bliss Soldiers is very important,” explained Capt. Clayton Melton, commander of ITD. First. Lt. Jerald Bodden, 644th Regional Support Group, and First Lt. Iesha Taylor, 7218th Medical Support Unit, from MaD, were also instrumental in organizing and hosting the day.

Police Explorers of El Paso was one of three local organizations that attended the Community Outreach Day at the Air Assault Obstacle Course here Dec. 2.

The event began with Col. Dominic Wibe, commander of the 644th RSG and Mobilization Division, welcoming the group. “If you do what they teach you to do, you will be able to overcome this,” he said. “You will be able to say you have done something great that a lot of people are too scared to do or can’t do.”

Sienna Borunda, 9, from Big Brothers Big Sisters of El Paso, looks at the 50-foot Air Assault Tower as Staff Sgt. Michael Oshiro rigs a Swiss seat at the Air Assault Obstacle Course here Dec. 2.

The Air Assault Cadre from ITD provided a block of instruction and explained safety measures prior to participants rappelling down the 50-foot tower. The group lined up for the cadre to begin rigging the Swiss seats, one-by-one, before moving to the tower.

Anthony Gomez, 9, of Big Brothers Big Sisters, explained the climb to the top of the tower was scary and “felt like climbing Mount Everest.” After rappelling, Gomez was proud of himself, saying, “I accomplished that I went down the tower.”

Bodden said it’s fun to mentor and inspire kids.

Children as young as 3 years old from Big Brother Big Sisters, Police Explorers of El Paso and the Child Crisis Center, participate in the Community Outreach Day at the Air Assault Obstacle Course here Dec. 2.

“I believe it’s important to impart a sense of pride and accomplishment, as well as the knowledge that they can accomplish any goal and overcome any hardship, hurdle or setback if they believe and work toward a goal,” Bodden said.

Orlando Hernandez, co-adviser for the Westside Police Explorers of El Paso, explained events like this build camaraderie within their program, teamwork and confidence.

“This experience has helped my determination,” said Yesenia Ochoa, 16, from Police Explorers of El Paso. “I know I can face anything big.”

Plans for another event this spring are moving forward. Bodden says he hopes the event will gain participation among the installation, local agencies and businesses.

“I believe the leadership (at Fort Bliss) has a lot to offer the younger generations,” Bodden said, “and the kids love to speak to them as well as rappel from the tower and negotiate the obstacles.”

After Anthony Gomez, 9, of Big Brothers Big Sisters, rappelled down the tower, he navigated through the Air Assault Obstacle Course here Dec. 2.

Daniel Arriaga, a mentor for Big Brothers Big Sisters, plans to participate again.

“This is a great event for giving the kids a boost of confidence and morale,” Arriaga said. “Thank you to the military for hosting this. We appreciate your support and everything you do for us.”

The Mobilization and Deployment Division, or MaD, is not an actual military unit. It is an Army mission currently being led by the 644th Regional Support Group, an Army Reserve unit out of Fort Snelling, Minnesota. MaD is a section of DPTMS that conducts mobilization and deployment operations at Fort Bliss.