COLUMBIA — Fourth-graders at Fairview Elementary spent recess playing basketball with six "army dudes" from the 101st Airborne Division Screaming Eagles on Thursday afternoon.
The Army's seven-member Screaming Eagles, from Fort Campbell, Ky., is a parachute demonstration team that performs at open venues all over the country.
"Obviously we can't jump in to a basketball stadium, but if you're playing basketball outside, we're game," said team leader Staff Sgt. Kevin Presgraves.
Sgt. Matt Thode, show coordinator for the team, said the Screaming Eagles are important to the Army because they "demonstrate the performance and professionalism that is expected of a soldier."
The team was at Fairview as part of the Salute to Veterans Corporation's "Living History" program. The program invites military personnel to schools, nursing homes and hospitals to share their experiences, according to the organization's website.
Nancy Fields, media chairwoman for the organization, said she is proud of the program, now in its 23rd year.
"Any time you bring living history to a group of children is so much greater than reading a book," she said.
Candy Abadir, one of four fourth-grade teachers at Fairview, said she wanted her students to learn from real members of the military.
"So many times they just hear about the military in books or hear about it from other people," she said. "To actually have a live person in front of them in their jumpsuit, it brings things to life."
Abadir said her students were talking about the parachuters all day.
"The excitement level is sky-high," she said. "It's probably as high as the parachuters, or higher."
After recess, the team was greeted with a "hip, hip, hooray" from the excited and curious students in Fairview's cafeteria. The team played a short video highlighting some of its jumps. Staff Sgt. Jerad Gough, assistant team leader, then asked for questions from the fourth-graders. Numerous students enthusiastically raised their hands.
Gough and the rest of the team fielded questions about their favorite types of jumps, how many jumps they've made and how long they've been with the team.
The fourth-graders also asked if the team had performed a jump at a Justin Bieber concert. They have not. Students also asked if sumo wrestlers are able to skydive with the team. They cannot.
When the team finished answering questions, a few students asked its members for autographs, and other students followed suit and scrambled to find paper from classmates. One fourth-grader asked the Screaming Eagles to sign his forehead.
Presgraves said the team makes similar appearances at schools whenever they are invited to do so. He said these presentations are beneficial for students.
"The kids get to see a different side of the military," Presgraves said. "There is definitely some cool stuff that you can do inside the military."
The Screaming Eagles are performing this weekend as part of Columbia's Salute to Veterans Air Show. They will also be performing a jump Monday across five intersections on Broadway with the Canadian Forces Skyhawks.