WIESBADEN, Germany – Brig. Gen. Jed Schaertl, deputy commanding general for Mobilization and Reserve Affairs, U.S. Army Europe-Africa; and senior responsible officer at U.S. Army Garrison Wiesbaden, toured Wiesbaden High School Nov. 24 in an effort to connect to the community and encourage both staff and students during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Schaertl began the tour by explaining to Dr. Heather Ramaglia, principal, and Sam Houston, senior and S3 Sgt. Maj. of the JROTC, that he has an affinity for education, as both of his parents were teachers. He also spent three years teaching high school math in South Carolina when he retired from Army active duty in 2001.
Houston led the tour, describing the school’s facilities and schedule, providing additional details about how COVID-19 has impacted the school’s use of space.
Schaertl said, “It is a phenomenal facility.” He was impressed by the neighborhood design of the school, also used in the middle school and soon-to-be-opened elementary school; the sports resources for athletes; and the extensive use of technology for student instruction. “I would have loved to have had that type of facility growing up,” he added.
The tour ended in the STEM wing where Brian Barnes, teacher, and robotics students explained the school’s unique space and connection to the military community. Barnes told the general, “We prepare kids for jobs.”
The school, with Barnes’ leadership, has partnered with U.S. contracting companies and military units to expose students to computer pathways, including cyber security and technical support.
The 2nd Theater Signal Brigade and 1st Battalion, 214th Aviation Regiment, are two examples of local Wiesbaden military connections. Barnes said, “214th aviation mechanics group actually send their machinist over and they work out of here.” The state-of-the-art machine shop at the school offers the mechanics equipment not available in their own facilities. The mechanics offer students instruction and insight into their profession.
“Those are the types of partnerships we are trying to foster between military and the contract world,” Barnes said. “If we play our cards right, we can groom students to go into job fields that the military needs to support the missions, to include both college and non-college bound students.”
“The technical things they are doing are quite impressive,” Schaertl said. “It is great to make the connection between what is in the books and real world applications.”
Ramaglia sees value in the general’s visit for the students who prepared and presented. “The students were incredibly excited to highlight their hard work, especially to our garrison partners,” she said. “It also gives them real world experience presenting their projects and explaining their processes, which is invaluable.”
As Ramaglia and Houston concluded the tour with the general, he offered her encouragement with the care of her teachers, calling them “pacing items.” A pacing item, according to Schaertl, “is an Army term for your most important piece of equipment, the most critical asset.” He explained that a training unit views its drill sergeant as a pacing asset. “To keep schools open,” he said, “teachers are the most critical asset.”
He cited the lack of depth in the school’s substitute rosters and the teaching staff’s close ties to the community as important considerations for the care of school faculty. “I want to pass on my appreciation for what teachers are doing to keep kids in school and doing it safely with all of the constraints.”
Ramaglia said, “I really appreciated how invested he was with the students. He asked really great questions. He talked to staff and students alike. This is so good for morale and for people to get the opportunity to feel appreciated for the role they play in aiding the mission. The fact that he took time out of his day to be visible and invest his energy and time into the school was noticed and truly appreciated.”
As Schaertl left the high school, he thanked Houston for the tour and handed him a coin. Houston said, “My dad said I should start my own collection as I follow in his footsteps to become an officer in the Army.”
“Sam was chosen because he has experience leading school tours as a Student Council Representative and as someone who is heavily committed to extracurricular activities and volunteerism,” Ramaglia said. “Sam is also an outstanding cadet in our JROTC program, which is another feature we wanted to highlight, and a candidate for admission to West Point.” Schaertl graduated from West Point himself.
Schaertl arrived to USAG Wiesbaden in October and is serving a 730-day order as a part of his Army Reserve duty.