FORT GORDON, Ga.-- (April 30, 2009) The first Augusta in Army Boots program of 2009 took place on Fort Gordon April 21-22.

The program, hosted by the 63rd Expeditionary Signal Battalion, 35th Theater Tactical Signal Brigade, allows civilian leaders from the Augusta community to experience what it is like to be a Soldier for 24 hours.

The local residents gained an insight into the training that Army Soldiers have to endure at basic combat training.

The participants learned combatives, received a medical demonstration, qualified with the M16A2 rifle in an Engagement Skills Trainer 2000 simulator, learned battle and tactical formations and experienced the Meals Ready to Eat.

Brig. Gen. Jeffrey Foley, U.S. Army Signal Center and Fort Gordon commanding general, said he wanted the participants to learn about military services, and to make sure that the residents had a good feeling of what the Army does.

Lt. Col. Robert Edmonson, 63rd ESB commander, said that he wanted to make sure that with the program, the participants would understand there is not a big difference between Soldiers and civilians, emphasizing that all of us are uncles, sons, daughters, wives and husbands.

The participants started off their day with a meet and greet breakfast at Dining Facility 13. At the breakfast, the participants were introduced to their sponsors, who would be assisting them along their training.

During the breakfast, Edmonson briefed the Soldiers on what they will be doing during their training, and stressed the importance of safety. "We're not here to hurt anyone," said Edmonson.

After breakfast, the Soldiers were taken to Gym 3 where they received their equipment, which included individual body armor, a tactical vest, a ruck sack, rain gear, sleeping bags, the M16A2 rifle and the Desert Combat Uniform.

Mike Gunn, an air traffic manager at the Augusta Regional Airport, said he was excited to put the uniform on. Gunn said this experience is special to him because his son, Pfc. Michael Gunn, completed Advanced Individual Training with Company B, 369th Signal Battalion at Fort Gordon. "I feel honored to wear the same uniform that he does," said Gunn.

Kim Gibbons, a sales manager at a hotel company, said the equipment felt heavy. Gibbons, an Air Force daughter, said she had never been exposed to Army life and felt it would be a good experience for her. "I expect not to get any sleep," said Gibbons.

Following combatives and medical training in Gym 3, the Soldiers were taken to the range where they learned how to fire their M16A2 rifle. Their training was done with the EST 2000, where they also learned about other weapons such as the M249 machine gun, or squad automatic weapon, the M4, the 203 grenade launcher, and the Mark 19.

When the Soldiers became more comfortable with shooting their weapons, they were taken into the field where they took classes on squad tactics and movement techniques taught by sergeants of the Basic Noncommissioned Officer Course.

Two of the participants, brothers Mark and Craig Baynham, said they enjoyed firing the weapons and the field training. Mark, owner of Baynham Welding, said he loved shooting the SAW and would have liked to shoot the 50-caliber. "I love to shoot," said Mark.

One thing that Mark would have liked to change was the targets that they had to shoot. He said he would have liked to go to a real range with pop up targets. "It would be fun to see if we could actually do that," said Mark.

Craig said the events were easy because everything was set up for them, but wonders what it would be like for the actual Soldiers in the field.

Col. Marc Harris, 35th TTSB commander, said, "The most important parts are water and bullets because a firefight will last a while."

The program concluded with a graduation ceremony at Bicentennial Chapel. Foley expressed his appreciation of the Soldiers doing the program and wanted to make sure that the participants will carry the lessons they learned in their lives. "We are grateful for the civilians to take the time and interest to learn what we do," said Foley.