The everyday happenings of U.S. servicemembers is often a mystery to the American public. Some civilians even struggle with differentiating Soldiers from Airmen from Sailors from Marines, and with military activities occurring behind access-controlled gates and fences adorned with concertina wire, it's no wonder that there is a fascinating mystique surrounding the armed services.

But a select group of corporate and civil community leaders got the chance to step behind the curtain and not only witness but experience the military in action during the Joint Civilian Orientation Conference which visited Fort Carson June 25, 2019.

According to the Department of Defense's website, "The JCOC is the DoD's oldest and most prestigious public liaison program. Established in 1948, it is the only Secretary of Defense-sponsored outreach program that enables American business and community leaders to have a full immersive experience with their military."

Dozens of civilians boarded white buses and toured the Mountain Post, with numerous opportunities to interact with Army personnel and equipment.

After a brief overview at the 4th Infantry Division Headquarters, the group boarded UH-60 Blackhawks and flew to the 10th Special Forces Group (Airborne) compound on post, where they donned protective equipment got to experience the indoor range.

They enjoyed a typical Army lunch at Stack Dining Facility with a group of Soldiers. During lunch, the civilians asked the Soldiers about Army life. Questions like, "What does a regular day look like for you?" and "What time does your day start?" and "What do you do in the Army?" echoed from table to table as the civilians got a glimpse into what it is to be a Soldier from the mouths of real life Soldiers.

After lunch, the group boarded the buses and traveled to the Mission Command Training Center complex, where they got to interact with various units' equipment, including an AH-64 Apache helicopter, an M1126 Stryker Combat Vehicle, an Explosive Ordnance Disposal and observation robot, and horses from the Fort Carson Mounted Color Guard.

They also experienced the weight of the improved outer tactical vest while loading up into simulated Humvees and conducting a virtual convoy in the Virtual Battlespace 3 convoy simulator.

"It was pretty amazing," said Don Bossi, a businessman from Manchester, New Hampshire. "With the three screens out there, you really felt like it was real."

They group discussed during the after-action review how a simulator like the VBS3 is beneficial to Army training objectives and how they struggled with the ethical decisions of the shoot-don't shoot scenarios and discerning friendlies from enemies. Some of the participants even spoke of the adrenaline that the scenario triggered.

"I was surprised at how loud it was," said Marjorie Adams, a member of a Dallas-based non-profit organization. "I was stressed. I mean, I was sweating. It got real in there."

Some of the participants took up the challenge to take on a couple of the challenges of the obstacle course, but the consensus on the most exciting thing they did all day landed on the same thing - the helicopter ride.

The goals was "to close the military/civilian gap and get key leaders more connected to their Army," said Maj. Andrew Frazzano, public affairs officer at the U.S. Army's Office of the Chief of Public Affairs. "They'll walk away from this experience really connected and inspired."

The participants gained knowledge and insight they didn't have prior to the JCOC, and many even walked away with a greater appreciation for what happens behind those access-controlled gates.

"I would say the commitment of those serving makes us all quite proud," Adams said.