ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. -- For one week, civilian engineers, scientists and business support staff left their labs and cubicles to live the life of a U.S. Army Solider and gain a deeper appreciation for the Army mission Sept. 12-16.
The U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command is promoting an Army civilian acculturation program across all installations to better integrate civilian employees into the military.
To align with this effort, the U.S. Army Materiel Command's Communications-Electronics Research, Development and Engineering Center and the U.S. Army Test and Evaluation Command have partnered to create an Aberdeen Proving Ground's inaugural collaborative greening program. Seventy-two ATEC and CERDEC civilian employees made up the greening course class.
"Everybody on APG supports the Soldier in one way, shape or form, so it is beneficial to gain a better understanding of 'the Soldier,' " said Maj. Gen. Daniel L. Karbler, ATEC commanding general. "This is an outstanding program supported by all the partner units at APG, and it gives us a chance to introduce our civilian workforce to the military culture, lifestyle, lingo and great field rations."
"Much of the Army's research, development, engineering and testing is performed at APG," CERDEC Military Deputy Director Col. Matthew Schramm said. "For that reason, this course is especially important for the installation's civilians whose work enables current and future Soldier technologies."
The partnership began in March during CERDEC's last town hall meeting, Schramm said. During the meeting, a civilian asked when CERDEC would host another greening course.
After inquiring if there had been a greening course that existed on base, Schramm said he reached out to APG organizations across the installation to see what may have been done in the past. ATEC then reached out to CERDEC expressing its interest in partnering to collaborate on a greening course.
"I thought it was very beneficial to partner with another organization to leverage all assets and resources across the installation," Schramm said. "CERDEC could provide things that ATEC couldn't provide, and ATEC could provide things that CERDEC couldn't provide. We shared resources and assets for the greater group."
The purpose of the greening course is designed for new hires to gain Army knowledge and to gain a greater appreciation for the Army's most valued asset, the Soldier.
"Based on the feedback we received, the greening program is a great way to get the civilian population to understand some of the tasks performed by Soldiers," said Sgt. 1st Class Clifford Martin II, senior enlisted advisor for CERDEC. "CERDEC and ATEC are both Army organizations, and this program helps the civilians to remember that."
The program offered information for civilians with limited knowledge about the Army and military life. Participants began the week learning about Army history as well as military rank and structure.
The "Soldiers in training" learned simple tasks like how to properly march and tell military time before advancing to more complex tasks like learning the necessary tactics and techniques needed to successfully enter and clear a room.
"The training was not set up to resemble an actual boot camp," Martin said. "It was designed to get the civilians to become familiar with some of the training Soldiers do on a regular basis; however, not all events were everyday Soldier tasks. Some tasks would be performed at more advanced levels."
The civilian employees also had an opportunity to tackle the same obstacle course used to train Soldiers, solve Leadership Reaction Course challenges designed to help build leadership and teamwork skills, learn how to escape a Humvee that has rolled over, fire assault rifles and rappel down a 30-foot tower.
The highlight of the week for many was a trip along the shoreline in a Black Hawk helicopter.
"Riding in the helicopter, having it go up and stall, and go down, that was pretty intense," said Ryan Konas, a U.S. Aberdeen Test Center engineer.
During lunch, participants even had a chance to dine on the finest Army cuisine, Meals Ready to Eat, or MREs.
"The intention is not to make them Soldiers," Schramm said. "The intention is to give the civilian employees some experience so when they go back to their workforce as the engineers, scientists and testers of this community, they can have a little bit more familiarization of what a Soldier does and put it into context of what they'll do in building future materials and future technical solutions for the Soldiers."
While it is important for members of the civilian workforce to become familiarized with everything a Soldier does, the week's course was strictly voluntary for all participants.
"I would like the greening course to be mandatory for all CERDEC employees, but it is strictly voluntary," Martin said. "All the events were strictly voluntary. There were some events that a few participants were not comfortable with. The great thing is the ones that did not do every event still stayed on site and cheered for their 'battle buddies.' At that point, it was obvious that everyone felt part of a team."
"It's been a great experience trying to get acclimated to what the military life is all about," said CERDEC mechanical engineer Robert Tyndall, who was five weeks into his employment at the start of the greening course. "I would definitely recommend everyone doing the course. Do everything you feel comfortable with, and stretch yourself."
With the success of the inaugural APG greening course, ATEC and CERDEC hope to continue the program for all new hires once a year, with the possibility of expanding it to twice a year.
"Part of the CERDEC/ATEC missions are to make sure Soldiers have the latest, greatest equipment to maintain technological advantage," Schramm said during the greening course graduation ceremony Sept. 16. "To do that, you have to understand Soldier needs. Outside of this course, I encourage you to continue to get up and get out, to talk to Soldiers on a regular basis. Promote Greening as an opportunity to interact with Soldiers, and to get a direct appreciation for what our Soldiers do, and what they need."
The U.S. Communications-Electronics Research, Development and Engineering Center is part of the U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command, which has the mission to ensure decisive overmatch for unified land operations to empower the Army, the joint warfighter and our nation. RDECOM is a major subordinate command of the U.S. Army Materiel Command.