NATICK, Mass. -- It is amazing how a one-week course can provide enduring and far-reaching insights. That was one of the main takeaways from the Basic Greening Course held at the Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center.

The course provides civilians an opportunity to experience tasks and challenges that Soldiers face firsthand. The program can help NSRDEC employees garner a better understanding of Soldier life and then apply those lessons to their daily jobs in order to support NSRDEC's mission, "to provide the Army with innovative science and technology developments that optimize Soldier performance."

"The purpose of the Greening Course is to introduce new workforce members to the military," said Duane Young, NSRDEC training coordinator G-1\Human Resources.

"Many of our employees are either new college graduates or from the private sector and have never been exposed or had interaction with the government, the military and most importantly, Soldiers.

Since most participants are hired to research, develop, design and/or engineer products, equipment and/or systems for Soldiers, it is critical that they understand their needs and requirements.

Also important is understanding the military structure, protocol and Army values. This course is an introduction to all of that and allows our workforce to gain insight and knowledge directly from Soldiers.

This knowledge helps us to better understand our most important customer, the Soldier.

Class activities included participating in battle drills as well as training in first aid, equipment use, weapon use, military customs, physical fitness, map reading, land navigation and emergency evacuation procedures for the sick and wounded -- to name just a few.

"This program is very insightful into the symbiotic relationship between the Soldier and what we do here," said David Wyatt, an NSRDEC civilian employee who participated in the program.

Wyatt believes that the adage, "You never know a Soldier, until you've walked-a-mile in their boots," applies to the Greening program.

"This gave us an opportunity to maybe not walk-a-mile in a Soldier's boots, but at least try them on," Wyatt said.

Wyatt praised Cpt. Susan Mason, 1st Sgt. Miguel Martinez, Sgt. Andrew Cochran, Staff Sgt. Robert Keifer and Staff Sgt. Anthony Sandoval for being hands-on and willing to share their knowledge and experiences.

"They were very attentive in making sure we understood the materials being offered and prepared us for each stage of the course all the way to the end," said Wyatt.

Keifer, who teaches Greening classes and leads Army civilians through practical exercises, believes the program is valuable for both Soldiers and civilians.

"I think the course is very beneficial, not only for the participants, but for the green-suiters they end up working with and throughout the Army," said Keifer.

"It gives the participants a glimpse into what it means to be a Soldier, how we work and what we do. It helps the participants to better understand and interact with Soldiers. Furthermore, since so many of the participants work for directorates that develop technologies that directly affect Soldiers' well-being, the insight provided in the course is helpful when those who have attended the course are assessing how to best meet the needs of the Warfighter."

Sandoval, who also serves as an instructor for the Basic Greening Course, shares his personal military experiences with civilian students to help them better understand important elements of the Greening training.

"I believe it's important for our civilian counterparts new to the Army team to understand the Army's force structure, both institutional and operational organizations, along with the basic structural elements that make them," said Sandoval. "With all Army organizations, the building block starts with the individual Soldier. We have tailored the course to provide an overview of the Army structure and more importantly, basic Soldier tasks that all Soldiers are trained on regardless of Military Occupational Specialty. We do our best to highlight some of the challenges our warfighters face and hopefully this provides our participants a stronger sense of purpose with NSRDEC's mission to improve warfighter survivability and lethality."

Nicole Flieger, an Army civilian at NSRDEC who participated in the program, found the program underscored the importance of Natick's work for the Soldier.

"I would highly recommend the class to anyone who would like to learn more about the life of the Soldier," said Flieger. "Getting this inside view of the life of the Soldier proved just how important and vital our work is here at Natick."

"It was awesome," said Wyatt. "I encourage everyone who has the opportunity to take this course to sign-up as soon as the announcement is out."

"A lot of things are coming to fruition based on the positive feedback from this one-week Greening course," said Mason, who is the commander of Headquarters Research and Development Detachment at NSRDEC.

"People are looking for more advanced Greening opportunities. Simultaneously, our Soldiers also want more advanced training opportunities. These things go hand-in-hand. So the goal for our Advanced Greening Course in the spring will be more advanced techniques and even more hands-on experiences. We had a really good group. We're looking forward to the next time we do this."

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The U.S. Army Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center is part of the U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command, which has the mission to provide innovative research, development and engineering to produce capabilities for decisive overmatch to the Army against the complexities of the current and future operating environments in support of the Joint Warfighter and the Nation. RDECOM is a major subordinate command of the U.S. Army Materiel Command.