Christmas came early to the children at Liberty County Head Start, courtesy of the Red Dragon Battalion and the Riceboro Fire Department.
Thirteen soldiers from the 2-306th Field Artillery Battalion Red Dragons, 188th Infantry Brigade, served as Santa’s elves after recognizing a need
to provide gifts for children at the school. The soldiers typically make weekly visits to the
school; however, a busy mobilization cycle limited their participation this
“With all the mobilization missions we’ve been doing, we haven’t been able to spend as much time doing our reading program at the school,” Sgt. 1st Class John D. Drummond said. “So I talked to Command Sgt. Maj. Bean about doing something special for the kids this Christmas.”
Because the Red Dragons wanted to provide all 174 children with gifts, soldiers and civilians of the 188th Infantry Brigade joined forces to reach their goal.
“We really wanted make sure we did something that would impact all the children at the school,” 2-306th Battalion Command Sgt. Maj. Patrick Bean said.
Head Start preschool teachers Demmentrice I. Jefferson and Hope Galloza said the Red Dragons’ Christmas wish program meant a lot to the children and let them know that people really care about them.
“I think it’s a great program, especially since the majority of the children come from low-income families,” Galloza said. “It helps show the children that they are loved and very special.”
Chief Warrant Officer 3 Paul A. Brown, battalion safety officer and “elf,” said he was blessed to participate. Brown said he can relate to the children and he wishes such program existed when he was growing up.
Even Santa dropped by Head Start to help pass out gifts.
“Their smiles keep me young,” said Dennis Fitzgerald of the Riceboro Fire Department, who has been dressing as Santa every Christmas for years. “I will continue until I can’t do it anymore.”
Between mobilization missions, the battalion is looking forward to their next event with the school, according to Bean. Their plan includes organizing an Olympic day to finish out the children’s school year.
“We try to make sure that our soldiers as leaders are actively involved in our area and serve as our ambassadors to the community,” he said.
The 188th Infantry Brigade, along with the other training support brigades in First Army Division East, provides and facilitates theater-focused training for deploying National Guard and Reserve units and assists with redeployment and demobilizing following deployment. Based at Fort Stewart, the 188th “Battle Ready” Brigade has been training Reserve component units for deployments since 2003.