ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. -- For the second year in a row, recently hired U.S. Army civilians spent a week gaining a greater appreciation for the rigors and challenges of their greatest customer, the Soldier.

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's Communications-Electronics Research, Development and Engineering Center partnered with the U.S. Army Test and Evaluation Command and the U.S. Army Communications Electronics Command to host the second annual Team APG Greening Course.

"The Army as a profession is established on trust, trust that our collaborative responsibilities will ensure we accomplish the task at hand and meet the mission's needs," said CECOM Deputy to the Commanding General Larry M. Muzzelo to the nearly 100 Greening participants during the opening ceremony on Sept. 18. "The Team APG Greening Course is designed to give you a better understanding of what a Solider in today's Army faces in terms of their requirements. A better understanding of the Soldier and his or her needs leads to a greater understanding of the Army as a whole, and our civilian workforce is a vital part of that whole."

The number of participants grew from 72 last year to 92 this year. The course also grew to include civilian employees from the 20th Chemical, Biological, Radiation, Nuclear and Explosive Command, the Program Executive Office for Intelligence, Electronic Warfare & Sensors, and the Program Executive Office Command Control and Communications-Tactical.

"With much of the Army's research, development, engineering and testing performed at APG, the APG Greening Course is especially important for the installation's new civilians whose work enables current and future Soldier technologies," said CERDEC Military Deputy Col. Matthew Schramm. "This year's graduating class challenged themselves and worked as a team to complete goals and objectives. "I was truly impressed and inspired by the team effort and commitment by all participants."

The "Soldiers in training" began their week learning Army basics -- such as ranks and the structure to company, platoon and squad size formations -- and then moved on to the training facilities at Gunpowder Military Reservation and Mulberry Point. For many, it was their first time ever interacting with Soldiers.

"This week has shown a glimpse of some of the things Soldiers go through to protect us," said Sam McDonald, an ATEC electrical engineer, who has been with the command for 10 months. "We were able to experience it by wearing the uniform and the equipment. Their job is very interesting. This makes me want to give more to support the mission."

During the week, the civilian employees had the opportunity to tackle an obstacle course used to train Soldiers, learned how to escape a rolled over Humvee, fired assault rifles, rappelled down a 38-foot tower, participated in team-building challenges that included military missions at an urban terrain village and experienced flight operations in a UH-60 Blackhawk Helicopter.

"As an engineer, I know what Soldiers do, but when we were out this week, we got to actually experience it. When I go back to work, I'm going to make sure I'm thinking about all the extra things because it's going to add up a lot," said Kritika Vashist, an electronics engineer with PEO C3T who completed her first year with the Army in June.

During the closing ceremony Sept. 22, CECOM Commanding General Maj. Gen. Randy Taylor thanked the Greening participants for "volunteering" and urged them to continue building on the lessons learned throughout the week.

"Think about where you started this week, and the personal growth this week provided. What you essentially did was create bonds as a team that will last a lifetime. You learned of the bond that convinces you to stay and fight when every ounce of your body is telling you to run the other way. Your bond will allow you to become more powerful, and your bond to those that wear the uniform is now much deeper understood," Taylor said.