Nine citizens stepped into the shoes of Fort A.P. Hill employees and the boots of the Warriors they train and support during the Fort A.P. Hill Citizens' Academy Pilot Program.

On Oct. 22, each graduate left with a greater understanding of Fort A.P. Hill's mission to provide realistic joint and combined arms training support to America's defense forces.

The graduates are: Conway Carter and wife Karen Carter of Woodford, Jerry Hunt of Woodford, Bryan Justice of Fredericksburg, Margaret Kearns of Ruther Glen, Stephanie Kreseen of Ruther Glen, Tom Rumora of Spotsylvania County, Charles "Chuck" Stepp of Port Royal, and Pete Stover of Spotsylvania.

The Academy brought them together for hands-on and interactive activities Oct. 1, 8, and 22.

"It is just tremendous what we have been able to learn about the degree of cooperation between the various elements of this post. It is just tremendous the cooperation that, frankly, the public doesn't know about, and that we learned so much about, via hands-on applications," Stepp said.

On day 1, the citizens learned about master planning and the process for a military construction project in accordance with the National Environmental Policy Act of 1974, as amended. Then they joined foresters for an overview about prescribed burning prior to digging a fire trench and climbing into fire shelters of their own.

At the end of the day, the citizens gained a greater understanding of how the post preserves its 75,794 acres of land.

Kearns said she really enjoyed the activities, finding the portion about NEPA "a big eye-opener."

On day 2, they spent the day with the Plans, Training, Mobilization, and Security team which included joining the Range Control staff at the fire desk to call over the radio mock incidents such as finding unexploded ordnances. Then they stepped into the boots of Warriors training like they do using the Engagement Skills Trainer and participating in a virtual video game experience at the gaming lab.

"Firing a simulated 50-caliber machine gun at 'bad guys,'" is the part Justice said he enjoyed the most.

The last day was spent with Fort A.P. Hill's police and firefighters. Donning firefighter uniforms, the citizens rushed into a "smoke filled" building at the Fire Training Center and crawled through a maze in a dark building.

The citizens then stood back to watch the experts respond to an actual fire at the Fire Training Center. From hearing sirens to observing a rescue, the citizens saw first-hand what the firefighters could face any day.

It was one of the activities Hunt enjoyed the most.

"I like technical stuff--guns and police and firemen. You know, what kid doesn't like policemen and firemen and all that stuff? It was a lot of fun--very interesting," he said.

The Academy literally went out with a bang, or a "boom," when the Night Vision Electronic Sensor Directorate team provided live-fire demonstrations while the class watched in awe from the bunker.

"I wanted to thank you all for participating because I know it was, like we mentioned earlier, a big investment of your time and your Saturdays," Haefner told the group.

At the graduation, Haefner invited the class to be part of the Installation-Community Council, a group comprised of local elected and community leaders.

"I look forward to my future involvement with this post," Stepp said.

Rumora, who is also the Spotsylvania County Economic Development director, said, "This was wonderful. Every base should do this for every community."

For photos and video from the Citizens' Academy, visit the Fort A.P. Hill Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/FtAPHill and YouTube at http://youtu.be/KWmpq7vN7wc

Page last updated Tue November 1st, 2011 at 00:00