JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Wash. - Two Portland recruiters loaded up twenty-five future Soldiers April 26, and brought them on a 260-mile road-trip to Joint Base Lewis-McChord so they could experience a day in the life of an active-duty soldier. The students, many of whom had already pledged to join the Army, represented eight different high schools in the Portland area.

Sgt. 1st Class Jamaal Jackson and Sgt. 1st Class Chris Molina, both of the Portland Recruiting Battalion, led the future soldiers on their field trip to JBLM. According to Jackson, the station tries to bring prospects here at least three times a year.

"We wanted to get the kids exposed to a little bit of Army community involvement by showing them the positive side of Army life," Jackson said. "We're trying to change the perception that some people may have. Here, they get to see that things are really pretty squared away."

"Events like these are great because it gives future soldiers an inside view of what the Army is really like- most of them go away very impressed," Molina added.

The students began their day by visiting a few different places on the installation. The 555th Engineer Brigade was their first stop, where they received a brief on the life of an Army engineer. They received a tour of the engineer facilities and were introduced to some of the heavy equipment engineers use on a daily basis.

From there, the future Soldiers visited the 787th Explosive Ordinance Disposal Company, 3rd Explosive Ordinance Disposal Battalion. Staff Sgt. Travis Roop, team leader for the 787th EOD company, gave them a brief history and explanation of the EOD's role in combat operations and peacetime missions. The students heard about the services that an Army EOD unit routinely provides to America's homeland security.

"I've taken part in a few of these events and I never get tired of seeing the excitement in these kids, (especially) when they get to start touching the equipment," Roop said.

Under the watchful eyes of EOD personnel, students handled a number of items routinely used in the unit's mission. A few of the most popular items were the bomb suit and the Talon robot, both used for approaching explosively dangerous items.

There was almost always a line for those wanting to look through the sites of the M107, Barrett .50-caliber
semi-automatic long-range sniper rifle. This weapon is used by EOD primarily as a rifle interrupter of unexploded ordinance.
Chad Kincaid, who experimented the longest with the Talon's radio control features, said, "This thing is so amazing and it would be so cool to be able to work with it."

Like Kincaid, most students agreed that the EOD visit was their favorite part of the trip.

After a break for lunch at the Cannon and Castle Grill Dining Facility, the students visited the 2nd Stryker Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division. Here, they were introduced to some of the Army's most modern combat warfare and technology, to include the M1129 Mortar Carrier and the M1133 Medical Evacuation Stryker vehicles. Jackson said the Strykers were a "jaw-dropper" for the students.

Finally, the students visited the Medical Simulation Training Center where they viewed a slide presentation depicting various emergency medical scenarios. The MSTC is where emergency medical technicians and other emergency professionals hone their skills in preparation for real world contingencies, emergencies, disasters and mass casualty events.

Even after the day's exposure to different Army occupations, some of the students were still holding fast to their original choices of specific Army specialty training: "I saw a lot of great stuff, but I'm still going to be an airborne truck driver," said Madison Bower, a 17-year-old future Soldier.

Kincaid added that even though he had a great time, he still plans to be a chaplain's assistant, and then, some day - a chaplain.

At day's end, and after plenty of opportunity for instruction and entertainment from those who played host to the 25 potential future soldiers, the students climbed back into their vans for the ride back to Portland. According to the recruiters, students and hosts alike had a good time and learned a lot about Army life.

"Before we got to JBLM, some of the students seemed to have the perception that Soldiers were all very robotic," said Jackson. " By the time we had to head home. By the time we had to head home though, their perceptions had changed in a big way; they now believe that the average Soldier's life is in many ways very comparable to their own - more normal than they had thought."