Southeast Army Recruiting Station at Pooler
Southeast Army Recruiting Station at Pooler
Giving Back to the Community
Story by Cindy Reid
The U.S. Army is a huge presence in coastal Georgia, especially in the Savannah area. While most people associate the Army with deployments, training exercises and life on base, there are many service men and women who are part of the day-to-day community. Quietly, without fanfare or fuss, these soldiers help out where they can, seeking no recognition or pats on the back. One such unit is the Southeast Army Recruiting Station at Pooler, whose soldiers step in and step up whenever needed in the Pooler greater community.
Company Commander Captain Casey Phillips says his main priority and goal is to “have our recruiting units and recruiters integrate and be part of the society. Not as a visitor, but as one who is invested in the community.” He says their job is essentially presenting information to young people, specifically as to the U.S. Army, but they are not here to convince anyone.
“We are here to present choices and options to anyone who may not know what is available to them,” he says. “And in any community the most valuable resource is its people, and if we are taking people out via recruitment, then we need to fill in the gaps by providing our time and effort to give back.”
He stresses that it is a group effort. “All five of our recruiting offices recruiters have been building houses for homeless veterans, assisting youth centers with at-risk youths and participating in many different community programs.”
Capt. Phillips says pitching in with community service puts recruiters in contact with a wide range of people and shows them what the U.S. Army is all about. He says, “It’s mutually beneficial but more importantly, it’s the right thing to do.”
Nisha M. Giustino, Director of Human Resources at Nine Line Apparel and founder of Operation Kid Forward (a 501c3 dedicated to helping underprivileged youth), says, “The Southeast Army Recruiting Station located in Pooler has been an invaluable resource. Anytime I need support for Operation Kid Forward Events (OKF) Captain Casey Phillips is always willing to help out.”
Nisha says under his command the soldiers have supported multiple events for at risk children and youth. “They have helped with the Princess Ball—an event for 100 fatherless little girls, where they escort each girl and play a fatherly role for the evening.”
Soldiers also helped with Shopping with the Sheriff—holiday shopping for kids; A Place to Dream, where they delivered and set-up new beds for kids that did not have one and they completed yard work and landscaping at Park Place. Captain Phillips also participated in the field trip to the NFL Jaguars Game, an incentive trip to encourage and reward for good grades and behavior, and discussed military opportunities to the youth they took.
Nisha says that, as a veteran herself, she appreciates the support and values the assistance. “I personally never worked with a Company Commander as involved with the community as Captain Phillips. He has not only been a great community partner to OKF but to other nonprofit organizations. He has definitely gone above and beyond, and we hope the incoming Commander will be involved as much as he has been. “
Staff Sergeant Gonzalez
Attitudes run from the top down and the recruiting centers certainly reflect Captain Phillips’ goals for community integration.
Case in point: the face of community service at the Pooler recruiting station is Staff Sergeant Matthew Gonzalez. At 24 years old, he has been a soldier for six years, Airborne Infantry, and at this post for six months. He sees his role as both recruiter and community supporter.
He says, “My job is to get involved with the community. Obviously, officers attend as many community service projects as possible, but I am happy to be a main contact. I am available pretty much round the clock, weekdays and weekends. I do it in my free time because I think it’s the right thing to do. All these people support us, so it’s only right that we give back to them. I am single so I have the time and I absolutely enjoy it.”
Shiva Dadkhah, Branch Vice President at VyStar Credit Union, collaborated with Staff Sgt. Gonzalez on a project for America’s Second Harvest of Coastal Georgia. She says, “It was a great project. We prepared and packaged two meals, both breakfast and lunch, for the children’s summer program. Their crew of ten joined our crew of four and with their help we completed more than 4,000 meals in four hours. Without them it would not have been so successful. Staff Sergeant Gonzalez brought his team and made that happen.”
She says “It’s rare to run into a recruiting station so willing to help out in the community. To commit, and provide the initiative, to go above and beyond. I am certainly looking forward to further projects together.”
Other projects include volunteering at:
• Sol C. Johnson High School Student Prom
• Savannah Scottish Games at Bethesda Academy
• Annual SCCPSS Superintendent's Cup Competition, a competition amongst all of the JROTC units in the Savannah-Chatham County Public School System.
Staff Sgt. Gonzalez says he really enjoys Pooler life. “Pooler is amazing. I am from Chicago originally, but I love Pooler. Everything is convenient and the community is thriving.”
He says he enjoys taking his daughter Mateo to the West Chatham YMCA playgrounds. “I like to go there with her. We go down the slides and do it all together. We have a blast.”
As to being a recruiter, he says “the high school kids here are amazing. My role is to give them choices and an opportunity. Some have had a hard life and they don't know what the U.S. Army can offer them. The young people are the future of America and I look forward to getting to know as many of them as possible in my time here.”