Fort Gordon has long been in the spotlight since being selected as the Army's home of cyber, so it should come as no surprise that people from all over the world want to see firsthand what goes on behind its gates.
From seasoned Veterans to those with no military background, budding leaders to VIPs, people from all backgrounds request to visit Fort Gordon.
About 30 children from Fairview Early Childhood Center in North Augusta, South Carolina, were among the most recent group. Their visit July 11 began with a tour of the Fort Gordon Fire Department where they received lessons on safety and fire equipment, experienced what it feels like to use a firehose and interacted with the department's mascot, Sparky. Then the group had lunch and a playground break before heading to Brant Hall, which proved to be a highlight for children, teachers and Soldiers alike.
"Our firefighters provided valuable fire safety information and fun … then the Signal School and Brant Hall team wowed the kids … there is no doubt that in my mind that they left here with positive, lifelong memories," said Anne Bowman, Fort Gordon deputy public affairs officer.
Joe Rooks, 7, receives a high-five from Sparky, Fort Gordon Fire Department's mascot on July 11. Laura Levering / Fort Gordon Public Affairs Office
The walk-through at Brant Hall was an eye-opener for Ashleigh Ivey, teacher at Fairview Early Childhood Center, and her students.
"When they got into the training center, their eyes lit up," Ivey said.
Soldiers and civilian staff at Brant Hall gave Fairview an overview of the building and presented them with opportunities to explore equipment and mingle with Soldiers.
"The Soldiers were really great talking to them," Ivey said. "I really think they'll gain something from this experience."
Bowman added, "The team at Brant Hall just knocked it out of the park … they went above and beyond giving these children a welcoming, interactive and unforgettable experience."
Visits such as Fairview's are important and mutually beneficial -- so much so that the Army began an initiative in 2017 called "Meet Your Army" as a way to connect the public with the military.
Carter Strickland, 7, receives a brief educational lesson on signal from Pvt. Jefferson N. Njefeh Jr., 369th Signal Battalion. Laura Levering / Fort Gordon Public Affairs Office
"The reasons for that initiative and the motivation behind hosting groups, even young ones like this, are much the same," Bowman explained. "We want the American public to know who the Army is, what the Army does, and what the Army stands for, and what better way to accomplish this is there than by proudly opening our doors, welcoming people in and showing them?"
On average, Bowman helps coordinate approximately five to six group tours each year, however, the number of requests she receives is much higher.
Limited manning and resource issues are primary reasons the installation cannot fulfill every request that comes through, but each request is run through proper channels before a final determination is made.
"That said, we'll always try to get a 'yes,' and sometimes, as with the Fairview Early Childhood Center, things line up perfectly," Bowman said.
To address some of the demand, the Partnership in Education/ Adopt-A-School program is one resource local schools may turn to.
"This program allows schools to partner with Fort Gordon units and foster grassroots relationship building while getting after what the schools ultimately want: Soldiers mentoring, sharing knowledge, and spending time with their students," Bowman said.
In Fairview Early Childhood Center's case, that goal was met over the course of a brief visit, whereas the Adopt-A-School program is ongoing throughout the school year.
Fort Gordon does not have a formal tour program, but groups or organizations interested in requesting a tour may contact Bowman at email@example.com.
"All requests received are considered on a case-by-case basis and are accepted if time and resources allow," Bowman said. "We cannot approve all of the requests we receive, but please don't let this stop any organization that would like a tour from requesting one."