Post opens gates to community in outreach tour
Drill sergeant Matthew Timms, left, answers questions from participants of the Community Outreach Tour Friday during the group's visit of the 2nd Battalion, 29th Infantry Regiment's barracks.

Bad weather forced changes in the itinerary of the first Community Outreach Tour Friday, but it did not stop the 36 Midlands-area residents from learning about their neighbors on Fort Jackson.

"We wanted to 'open the gate' of this historic post to show the citizens of this area all of the great things that are happening on Fort Jackson," said Col. Jeffrey Sanderson, Fort Jackson chief of staff, who briefed the visitors on the installation's mission. "We are very proud of our ability to transform citizens into Soldiers, and in talking with the community, we realized that lots of folks from the surrounding communities had not been on Fort Jackson in quite some time. Our community outreach initiative is designed to show our citizens what America's Army is doing behind the gates."

After learning general facts about Fort Jackson, the visitors watched the graduation ceremony of companies A and B of the 1st Battalion, 13th Infantry Regiment.

"The ceremony was very impressive," said Hacky Pitts, who participated in the tour with her husband Thomas Whitaker. "I'm glad we came on a day when they were having graduation. I'd come back."

The tour members were scheduled to observe training at Victory Tower and the Engagement Skills Trainer 2000, but both events were cancelled because of thunderstorms. Instead, the group embarked on a bus tour of the training areas on post and made an extended stop in the 2nd Battalion, 39th Infantry Regiment barracks. Sgt. 1st Class Matthew Timms, a drill sergeant with the battalion, informed the guests about Basic Combat Training and life in the barracks.

Ezell Pittman, who trained at Fort Jackson 49 years ago, was amazed by the changes training has undergone since he was in the Army.

"We went through rigorous training, but it was certainly nothing like what the drill sergeant described today," he said. "I'm extremely impressed, and it certainly appears to me that they are being trained to handle the situation they might face in combat. And it is my impression that, hopefully, when they go out, they'll be ready to take on whatever challenge they might face."

Air Force veteran James H. Harper, who lives in Columbia, said the tour helped him to get a better understanding of what training takes place on the installation.

"I live in the community. It is worthwhile to know what's happening in your community and to understand things better," Harper said.

Veran Hill, community relations assistant, who organized the tour, was pleased with the outcome.

"Considering the rain, the tour went very well," she said. "We had a very professional drill sergeant, who explained all aspects of training very efficiently. It turned out to be an exceptional tour. I think it's great that we're opening up the doors for people to see what we do here."

Hill added that the response to the community outreach initiative has been tremendous and the tours planned for December and January are already fullly booked. There is still space available on the tour in February. For more information or to register, call 751-1474.

Page last updated Thu November 20th, 2008 at 12:02