CAMP ZAMA, Japan – Members of the 35th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion lived up to their “Means to Sustain” motto by delivering school supplies to Zama Middle High School here Sept. 24.
“It’s important to show our support to the community, and more importantly, the students,” said Lt. Col. Demetrick Thomas, commander of the 35th CSSB, as he and Command Sgt. Maj. Edgar Rodriguez gave five backpacks full of pencils, paper, sticky notes and more to Henry LeFebre, the school’s principal.
The battalion has an agreement through the local Adopt-A-School Program to support ZMHS, so when 1st Lt. Yu Chen, assigned to the 35th CSSB, suggested the school supply drive, Thomas thought it was a good idea, he said.
“In COVID times, knowing there might be an opportunity for kids to go back to brick-and-mortar school, we wanted them to have the opportunity to have supplies they may not have received beforehand,” Thomas said. The school returned to in-person classes Sept. 21.
LeFebre said the school always has a need for supplies, so he plans to have the supplies on hand for students to access on an as-needed basis.
The school is thankful for the supplies, LeFebre said.
“It takes a village for us to be able to get the education across to our children, so whenever we can work with our partners, it’s always a positive for us,” LeFebre said. “It’s always something that we look forward to and we welcome.”
Chen, who also helped deliver the supplies, said the idea behind the drive was to make life easier for students going back to school during the ongoing COVID pandemic.
Members of the battalion impressed her with how much they donated in a short amount of time, Chen said.
Rodriguez said the school supply drive was a good opportunity to connect with the school when other opportunities might present challenges under COVID restrictions.
“This is a good opportunity for us to kind of get back to normality a little bit,” Rodriguez said.
The battalion plans to support the school in other ways throughout the year, and is assessing how to do that while complying with COVID restrictions, Rodriguez said.
Lucinda Ward, Camp Zama school liaison officer, said agreements like the one between the 35th CSSB and ZMHS are helpful because they allow a constant free flow of communication between the community and the school.
“The schools reach out for volunteers for various activities during the year,” Ward said. “Having a sponsoring unit allows the Soldiers to stay active and receive volunteer hours while meeting the needs of the school.”
Schools can have more than one unit as a sponsor, Ward said. For example, ZMHS also has a partnership with U.S. Army Medical Activity Japan on Camp Zama. John O. Arnn Elementary School at nearby Sagamihara Family Housing Area has a partnership with the 78th Signal Battalion.
“This is a community partnership,” Ward said. “Having units volunteer to take part in our Adopt-A-School Program opens the doorway to amazing partnerships, networking and lifelong friendships.”