ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. -- Extremely early morning wake-ups and exercise became the new norm for 29 civilians participating in the Army Research Laboratory Greening Course 2011. Leadership designed the event to give civilian employees first-hand experience on the rigorous training Soldiers endure to build physical stamina and strengthen mental aptitude.

To Weapons and Materials Research Directorate’s Francesco J. Murphy, "Marching is a lot harder than it looks. You kind of expect certain things already but it kind of helps bring it home."

But he said by the end of this training, he expected to feel more associated with the Soldier, a goal course organizers want realized.

"The Greening Course is an opportunity for civilians to come and learn a little bit about what we do as Soldiers," said Master Sgt. Jemal Pittman, the noncommissioned officer in charge of Survivability/Lethality Analysis Directorate. "It's our opportunity to give back to them since they give so much to us doing technology. This is an opportunity for us to give to them to show them kind of what we do on a daily basis as Soldiers so they can take that back to the labs."

Civilian participants were introduced to team-building exercises to promote a sense of camaraderie as part of the total Army team. The course incorporated modules designed to result in basic understanding of the U.S. Army through informal classroom instruction and actual Soldier experience.

Held earlier this summer for a week, the course’s instructors - ARL's military workforce led by Col. Pratya Siriwat, military deputy director and Sgt. Maj. Christopher Harris, ARL's command sergeant major - taught Army civilian employees how to disassemble and assemble the M9 handgun, the M16 assault rifle, and its future replacement Army wide, the M4 carbine, a gas-operated, air-cooled, magazine-fed, selective fire, shoulder-fired weapon with a telescoping stock. For each weapon, civilians also learned how perform function checks and correctly manipulate sights as part of the preliminary marksmanship training.

In a rare opportunity, the group witnessed an actual military training exercise in Edgewood, Md., at the EST 2000, the Engagement Skills Training operation, that trains in marksmanship, squad/fire team collective and judgmental use of force to Advanced Individual Training (AIT) students. AIT students, all of them privates, recently enlisted in the Army and completed Basic Combat Training, and come to Edgewood to learn skills they’ll need for their specific role, or function, in the military like infantry.

EST 2000 training represents the new millennium in basic combat training techniques by integrating computers and laser technology as training tools in basic rifle marksmanship, squad/fire team collective and judgmental use of force. EST 2000 is a digital visual simulator that uses lasers and compressed air to imitate the discharge of a round from the rifle while being tracked on a projection screen and monitored by instructors ensuring privates won’t make safety mistakes on an actual firing range.

At the Aberdeen Test Center, Greening course participants learned the capabilities of the MATV, or MRAP All-Terrain Vehicle, the heavily-armored successor to the Humvee. This and other mine-resistant ambush protected vehicles have nearly replaced the once-revered Humvee. It’s mostly used to transport American forces in Afghanistan, safe enough for the task because of its ARL-certified explosively formed penetrator-stopping lightweight armor around the body of the vehicle and ARL’s innovative transparent armor material on its irregularly-shaped windows that protect troops from roadside bombs and other explosions.

The Department of Defense has designated ATC as the lead test center for automotive/tracked and wheeled, engineering equipment, direct-fire systems, shoulder-fired weapons, small arms systems, direct-fire weapons performance, emissions characterization, soldier systems, nonlethal weapons, unmanned ground vehicles, transportability, environmental mitigation technologies, vulnerability/lethality, and littoral warfare. ATC conducts 80 percent of the Army’s automotive testing, and as a designated Federal Laboratory, ATC participates in technology transfer and dual-use partnership initiatives with industry.

“With ARL right now, a lot of the civilians don’t have any military experience. And this is an opportunity for them to actually see the Soldiers, work with the Soldiers, besides being in the lab,” Master Sgt. Pittman said. “It gives them the chance to see us doing what we do on a daily basis.”

A training highlight was the Obstacle Course, a staple for recruit training that is sometimes referred to as an ‘confidence’ course that often includes challenges on the Rope, Wall, Hurdle, Zig Zag, Tunnel/Low Rail, Fence and Cargo Net Climb, Cargo Net Descent and Parallel Bars.

After everyone completed the course, seven wanted to be timed, recalled Darrell Roll, of ADLO.

U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command's Sergeant Maj. Matthew Delay joined the friendly, timed competition on the course, which resulted in Ben Chamish, of WMRD, placing first with a timing of three minutes, 12 seconds; Sgt. Maj. Delay, 16 years older than Chamish, in second at 3:20; and Francesco Murphy in third, at 3:30.

"Everyone cheered them all on and everyone enjoyed the event," Roll said.

"Not that you need any more respect, but (this course) gives you more respect for what the Soldiers go through day in and day out and it gives you a better feel for their life," said Murphy. "It kind of helps get that association; we're sitting there in a lab or test facility and stuff like that. A lot times you feel very removed from the fighting. (This course) kind of helps bridge that gap in a small, small way."

VTD’s Kelsen LaBerge agreed.

"As an entire experience, I think it's important for the people who are supporting the Army to kind of understand what it's all about, and not to be somebody that’s behind a desk that's doing an analysis, or somebody in a lab," she said.

Page last updated Wed July 20th, 2011 at 00:00