WHEELER ARMY AIRFIELD, Hawaii - Civilian business leaders from the Hawaii Young Presidents' Organization gained a better understanding and appreciation of Army operations firsthand Nov. 5, when they donned Kevlar helmets and manned gun-turrets, courtesy of the 25th Combat Aviation Brigade and the U.S. Army, Pacific.

Approximately 44 members of the YPO, a highly influential international organization of chief executive officers or owners of companies or organizations under the age of 55 , with their spouses, started their day at the Battle Command Training Center, where they were welcomed by U. S. Army, Pacific Commander, Lt. Gen. Benjamin R. Mixon.

Participants then explored the BCTC through hands-on orientations, were engaged fully by simulating maneuvers at the Virtual Squad Training Simulator and Virtual Combat Convoy Trainer, were taken on an aerial tour of military training areas via UH-60 Blackhawks, which then landed at Wheeler Army Airfield, only to be greeted by a 25th CAB static display of aircraft and the equipment involved with its usage.

Each encounter included opportunities for the individuals to try on, shoot at, or sit in, with experts in each field on hand to answer any questions.

"We allowed them to see how our aviation allows us to engage together. Each individual got to sit in a cockpit, see the After Action Review process, and go into the master control room," said Maj. Jeremiah Simpson, 25th Combat Aviation Brigade operations officer, who organized much of the event.

"When you do functions like this, it gives our guests a better understanding, and since we all live on a small island together, it makes it easier for us to co-exist," said Simpson. "The Army has to do training with all our equipment, so now they get to see what it all entails."

Participants expressed enthusiasm and excitement for the experiences of the day.

"The amount of complications with equipment were more than I expected, I definitely see the Army from a different perspective now," said Jason Chun, President of Island Title Corporation, while manning the gunner's position from a UH-60.

"I was surprised at how heavy the helmets are, it's a lot to carry for one person," said Chun's wife Hannah Chun as she tried on the Individual Body Armor and Kevlar helmet. "I'm glad we got to experience all the hands-on aspects of this day."

The group finished with lunch and a visit to the Warrior Transition Center, where YPO members Jeff Swartz, President of Islander Group and Michael Pietsch, President of Docutrieve, presented a check for $1000 on behalf of the YPO to the Warrior Transition Center.

During the lunch, Mixon thanked the YPO for their visit and expressed the hope that they had gained a better understanding of the U.S. Army through the day's experiences.

"What we're doing with all of you today, we do with a big heart and dedication, because it's your military," said Mixon while addressing the group. "When I say your military, it's with a capital 'Y': Your military, not my military, because it belongs to the taxpayers and American citizens."