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Connie Schlittler, Oklahoma Department of Human Services chief information officer, walks out of Polo Club Oct. 7 only to be yelled at by many drill sergeants including Drill Sgt. (Sgt. 1st Class) Michael Iozzo, 1st Battalion, 19th Field Artillery. She was one of 49 participating in Leadership Oklahoma 2010. Fort Sill is the first stop on a tour of the state and the group was treated as if they were Soldiers for their three-day stay.

FORT SILL, Okla.-- Welcome to a Soldier's world. No warm reception, only the bite of drill sergeants as they prepare you for Army life. Harsh, but purposeful. A group of civilian leaders got their dose of soldiering Oct. 7 as part of Leadership Oklahoma.

The group was inside Polo Club as of 7 p.m. where they had a say in matters. At 7:20 p.m. that control was handed over to the drill sergeants of 1st Battalion, 19th Field Artillery whose booming voices were ripe with orders. If there was any hesitation, the words became more severe.

"You know that is what everybody imagines it to be. It's very intimidating, kind of dehumanizing. You think it won't bother you when you see it in the movies, and then you experience it and it kind of gets you," said Lauren Brookey, Tulsa Community College vice president of external affairs.

As swiftly as the attack started, it ended, and the leaders were transported to learn how to properly make their bunks and get ready for lights out in the bays.

Leadership Oklahoma is meant to give the movers and shakers of the Sooner State an inside look at all this state has to offer. The trip starts at Fort Sill, where it's all about the basics.

"I didn't grow up in Oklahoma, so I wanted to see different parts of the state I wouldn't have been able to see otherwise, and Fort Sill was one of the main reasons I wanted to be a part of this," said Steve Baker, Public Service Company of Oklahoma vice president of distribution.

The Leadership Oklahoma participants were allowed a glimpse into Basic Combat Training as they watched other civilians transition into Soldiers. Friday morning, drill sergeants stirred the group bright and early for PT. Then, they ate breakfast with Soldiers where insights were shared as to what the hardest part of basic training was to other topics such as-which MRE tastes the best.

The civilians put the latter knowledge to good use as lunchtime rolled around.

"I got sloppy Joe. The Soldiers this morning said stay away from vegetarian omelette or the ribs," said Baker.

He said to be a part of Leadership Oklahoma he had to submit an application, have letters of reference and then a review panel that selects the participants.

"The only thing that has really shocked me so far, is how many people are training at one time and the amount of education the privates have to have is so much closer to what a commissioned officer would have had years ago. It's amazing what these young people are doing," said Baker.

The group met at Treadwell Tower where more than 100 basic trainees from 1st Battalion, 40th Field Artillery climbed, rappelled and jumped off of the wooden structure, displaying one of the Seven Army Values: personal courage.

"At 1st-40th we produce disciplined, fit and motivated Soldiers who are trained and ready to successfully contribute to their first unit of assignment," explained Capt. Shawn O'Brien. He said they also learn to trust their training and their personal equipment by negotiating the structure.

As Soldiers rotated from training to eating, they sat side by side with the civilians and were quick to help them heat up their meals.

Sgt. 1st Class Cathrine Jones said the civilians were nothing but eager to participate in the brief Army life they were afforded at the Fires Center of Excellence and find out why the Soldiers chose to join the Army.

"Of course the most impressive thing is meeting these people and learning about their experience so fresh into the system," said Brookey. "I had a basic respect for Soldiers but when you experience it personally it just makes it that much more meaningful and when you meet people individually and know what they're going through it makes you more align with that individual and with the Army."

After three days at Fort Sill, the group moved onto their next destination.

Page last updated Fri October 15th, 2010 at 09:04