NATICK, Mass. (Sept. 6, 2013) -- It's not every day you arrive for work and line up in formation if you are a civilian, but that was the case during the one-week Basic Greening Program at the Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center this summer.

If you showed up late to Peter Niemeyer's course, you risked the chance of being locked out. Niemeyer ran the course, which he created only a few years ago, like the senior drill sergeant he once was.

"This course all starts from the basics," said Niemeyer, who served in the Army for 20 years. "You'll get a feel for how privates feel in basic training."

Niemeyer was not as tough on the civilian attendees as he was on privates, but he did expect everyone to fully participate in each and every activity. That meant the possibility of being randomly called on to answer a question or even being told to act as a squad or platoon leader during drill and ceremony formation.

The course offered a lot of new information for civilians with limited knowledge about the Army and military life. During the first day alone, participants learned about rank, insignia, branches, and drill and ceremony formation.

"From this day forward, we have to work together as a team," said Niemeyer during his overview of the Greening course. "This course will challenge you, but it's also meant to be fun."

During the week, attendees not only learned about what life is like for a Soldier, but they were also able to perform hands-on tasks Soldiers conduct regularly. Those included assembling and disassembling an M4 Carbine, learning how to read maps, performing drills in formation, and Land Navigation and orienteering.

"We had to drill for half an hour or an hour," said Greg Pigeon, NSRDEC materials engineer, who started working at Natick as a student in 2010. "Soldiers have to drill until they get it right. It (gives one) a better appreciation for all the stuff Soldiers have to learn in Basic. To have to have all that down and memorized on the tip of your tongue is kind of a task."

Many people enjoyed the hands-on tasks, but for others, learning about the smaller things like rank and insignia was also useful and worthwhile.

"If you work for the Army, you should have an understanding of what the organization is as a whole," said Amy Johnson, NSRDEC textile technologist, "because to me it's ignorant not to know; essentially, you do not know your customer."

The course also allowed participants to network and learn more about what different teams do at Natick. Participants were able to tour facilities on base they may never have visited and learn more about projects being worked on by other employees.

A few years ago, the commanding general of Research, Development and Engineering Command requested a course that would teach civilians about the military and their place of work, and Niemeyer complied.

"I built the course from the ground up with very minimal funding," said Niemeyer, who makes additions to the course as he sees fit, such as basic hands-on first-aid training, which was added this summer.

Niemeyer received great feedback from not only RDECOM, but also participants in previous courses. In fact, he received NSRDEC's Employee of the Month award for July.

"This is the single best class I've taken in the 10 years that I've been here," said Johnson. "I would highly recommend it to anybody that wants or needs to take a class. I do think it should be mandatory for all incoming people."

Niemeyer has also run advanced greening trainings that are more intensive and take place at other military bases over a week or more.

"When you think about it, our scientists here might be able to help Soldiers, but we have to sit at our desks and try to imagine ourselves in their situation," said Pigeon. "As a scientist, the advanced greening course would give us a much bigger data pool to pull from when we're trying to think of ways to help Soldiers."

Many civilians do not receive an introduction when they begin working for the Army. This course provides not only practical information about the Army, but also team-building and life-saving skills that service members use every day.


NSRDEC is part of the U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command, which has the mission to develop technology and engineering solutions for America's Soldiers.

RDECOM is a major subordinate command of the U.S. Army Materiel Command. AMC is the Army's premier provider of materiel readiness -- technology, acquisition support, materiel development, logistics power projection, and sustainment -- to the total force, across the spectrum of joint military operations. If a Soldier shoots it, drives it, flies it, wears it, eats it or communicates with it, AMC provides it.