201006-A-LS252-091.jpegSue Potashnik, Assistant Chief, Fort Jackson EMS, demonstrates the ease of using the power lift during National Night Out, Oct. 6. (Photo by Josie Carlson)

By Josie Carlson                                                                                                                                                                                                    Fort Jackson Leader

Although it is a Fort Jackson annual event, the National Night Out held Oct. 6 was much different this year to adjust to COVID-19 restrictions. Its purpose was still the same – to bring people together in a way that builds relationships with neighbors and law enforcement while bringing back a true sense of community.

National Night Out, established in 1984, is an annual community-building campaign that promotes police-community partnerships and neighborhood camaraderie across the United States.

Zachary Wise, chief of the Fort Jackson Police Department, said National Night Out is important because “It brings the community together in a fun environment that builds relationships with neighbors, creates safer neighborhoods while instilling the trust in the Fort Jackson Team. This event provides an opportunity to express the importance of safety through various demonstrations and showcase available resources.”

The event also helps the Fort Jackson on-post housing community to meet and build trust with those who will respond during emergencies.

Col. John “Wes” Hankins, garrison commander, in his opening remarks thanked all those who worked to make the event come together this year.

“Not only do we have a great community here on Fort Jackson, but our (Directorate of Emergency Services) does a phenomenal job of building partnerships with our community off the installation here in Richland County,” he said.

Along with eating from food trucks, listening to the 282nd Army Band, and chatting with law enforcement representatives, Families could also receive free child ID kits.

“You can fill out the full name, it’s kind of like an ID card but you’re going to keep this on file,” said Alex Abbott, an investigator with the Fort Jackson Police Department. “Go ahead and get your child’s fingerprint, you can get dental exam records, photo documentation, and usually you do a hair strand … If they’re not old enough to have hair you can do a mouth swab with a sterile Q-tip. And then basically you keep this on file and if anything were to happen then you can have this easily, and readily available.”

Pia Johnson, a volunteer taking temperatures at the entrance said she was glad to participate in the National Night Out. “It’s good to meet different people, and it’s just positive energy,” Johnson said. “It’s just good to see people out and enjoying it.”

Wise said of this year and all the changes, “… a lot of times things looked bleak, but having an event such as this really makes it worthwhile, seeing the people come out and be able to celebrate community –especially during times when people see a lot of things going on around us.”

“This is just a great opportunity for the law enforcement and fire and EMS and all of us to come together and our local partners, and just celebrate community,” he added. “I think it’s important that we do that now more than ever so that we can push forward and get through this pandemic to bigger and better things. It’s just great to be able to have time to celebrate families.”