Post Classifieds

MCW company branches out, teaches local kids

By Stephen Mikolaitis
On April 3, 2012

John Nazzaro spent an hour gathering and organizing materials such as tarps, sticks, and whatever natural vegetation he could find in the enclave of trees behind the army service center.

Then he called on his radio and informed his station assistant Jeremy Breckenridge he was ready and reported to the army service center, where he would meet the grade-school kids he was responsible for teaching.

Nazzaro, a member of Norwich's Mountain Cold Weather (MCW) company, would have 45 minutes to teach the students assigned to him how to build makeshift outdoor shelters out of basic materials, such as tarps, sticks, and leaves.

On Feb. 22, 49 Northfield Elementary School children and six teachers came to Norwich University to receive lessons on cold weather injuries, outdoor shelter building, and basic land orientation, according to Eric Birr, the MCW blackhat platoon leader and leading coordinator of the event.

"At first (the event) was going to be more of a snow-oriented event with snow shelters and snowshoeing," said Birr, a 21-year-old health science and athletic training dual major from West Babylon, N.Y.

"But because of the way this season went we really didn't have too much snow," said Birr. "So we did an orienteering course, a shelter building course that wasn't snow shelters but more of a generic building-material-in-the-woods shelters, and also cold weather injuries class."

To provide the manpower needed for the event, all members of every level of MCW were asked to participate in the event, explained Birr.

"Pretty much people from all echelons of MCW, the greensticks, blackhats and rescue team members all came to help out and it went pretty smoothly," Birr said.

The lesson stations lasted between 45 minutes to an hour, and were usually taught by two MCW members at a time, said Nazzaro, a 19-year-old sophomore computer security major from Washingtonville, N.Y.

"Most (of the kids) were pretty receptive to the lessons, a couple of them obviously wanted to play on the ice and have fun by themselves," Nazzaro said. "But most of them wanted to learn how to build shelters."

Other members of the unit taught different lessons at the two other stations for the same amount of time, said Daniel Hind, a 20-year-old criminal justice major from Ashland, N.H. and a greenstick in MCW.

"I was only able to help out for a small amount of time," Hind said. "We set a very, very basic compass course in Shapiro Field House and walked through the course with each kid."

"We gave (the kids) tips and tricks on how to use the compass, and how using it actually works," Hind said. "Originally we were going to do the event on the practice football fields, but we determined they were too icy."

These classes ran throughout the day, and each member of MCW worked in shifts for a predetermined amount of time. This allowed each participating MCW member to contribute time towards the event while still being able to attend their classes and other obligations throughout the work day, said Hind.

The Northfield Elementary School students were accompanied to the Norwich campus by the elementary school teachers, according to Austin Brocetti, a 21-year-old civil engineering student from Wallkill, N.Y., who is company commander of MCW.

"They walked them here to the service center where we had a little welcome brief," Brochetti said. "Food was an issue, so we drew supplies from the army so the kids could get a test of what MREs (meals ready to eat) taste like, and to give the event a more military feel."

"From all of the squad leaders that saw them out of the gate, they said all of the kids were really happy and had a great time," said Brochetti. "All of the parents were really appreciative, and even the faculty seemed to be interested in (the lessons)."

"All of the kids really loved it, everyone kept coming up to me and told me it was the best field trip they have ever been on," Birr said.

"The teachers certainly enjoyed it, some of them even asked questions during the cold-weather injuries class, questions about what can they do to better run their program with kids going outside for recess when it is cold out."

Plans are already being arranged with Nicole DiDomenico, the director of civic engagement and campus climate, to run this event again in the future, according to Birr.

"Showing that we are willing to help, both the army department and the school, and above all MCW, looks really good to the community," Brochetti said.

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