FORT HOOD, Texas -- Designed to provide a small glimpse into the lives of Soldiers, more than 3,100 high schoolers from across Texas came here for a Basic Training Experience and Career Expo on Sadowski Field, just outside the III Corps and Fort Hood Headquarters, March 3.
"If they only learn one thing today -- the Army is not all about pulling the trigger and being an infantryman, which is a great job," Lt. Gen. Theodore Martin, deputy commander of the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command, said about the students visiting the installation. "There's 150 different ways to find out what your particular warrior is."
The entire Career Expo was an opportunity for Fort Hood to showcase the variety of military occupational specialties within the Army -- infantry, trunk driving, aviation, medical, firefighting and hundreds of other specialties.
"The best thing about this is that they're not just talking to recruiters, they're talking to the Soldiers who are actually doing the job -- they're the ambassadors of this," Martin said. "I challenge them to ask them what their story is and what it is about their job that makes them like getting up every single day."
Martin told the students that recruiting is a special skill, one that Sgt. 1st Class Leroy Betts III, from U.S. Army Recruiting Command, has been mastering throughout his six years as a recruiter. As the Basic Training Experience organizer for the past four years, Betts has slowly been making it larger and larger, with this year's event being the largest to date, through the addition of the Career Expo.
He said the Career Expo took roughly a year to plan and he hopes next year's will be even bigger and better.
The event began in 2017 with the Basic Training Experience, introducing Harker Heights High School football players to Army life. In 2019, they decided to make the event a competition by inviting Killeen High School to face HHHS to see which team was the best. This year, not only did they invite all four high schools within the Killeen Independent School District to participate in the Basic Training Experience, but they also opened the gates to any school that was interested in coming to see the rest of the Career Expo.
"What you're going to remember probably foremost is the 20 quality friends (drill sergeants) I have that are wearing the campaign hats," Maj. Gen. Scott Efflandt, III Corps and Fort Hood deputy commander, told the 200 KISD football players. "After 35 years of doing this, I still remember, by name, the two drill sergeants who squared me away once I got off the bus."
During the Basic Training Experience, the students divided into groups and completed five tasks that would test their ability to work as a team and support their fellow teammates who struggled with one of the tasks.
"I loved it," Keith Cunningham, a junior with HHHS, said. "We got to see how everybody worked as one."
Following the Basic Training Experience, the cadre of the CSM Basil L. Plumley Air Assault School conducted a four-person rappel from a UH-60 Black Hawk hovering over the parade field.
As dozens of students gathered, the Fort Hood Fire Department also conducted a live firefighting demonstration, lighting a helicopter frame on fire and then demonstrating the techniques they use to douse the flames.
"It was definitely a unique way to show us what the firefighters do," Aaron Schubert, a KHS student said about the firefighting demonstration. Schubert said firefighting has always been at the back of his mind because his grandfather was a firefighter.
While tanks and big trucks are always popular static displays, the students also enjoyed learning about aviation from the aviators with the 1st Air Cavalry Brigade. They had an AH-64 Apache, HH-60 Medevac Black Hawk, CH-47 Chinook and UH-60 Black Hawk for students to find out about.
"I haven't been close to a helicopter before now," Shahboz Yaqubzoda, a Tajikistan foreign exchange student from Copperas Cove High School, said, admitting he enjoyed seeing the Chinook the most.
Despite the painful muscles from the Basic Training Experience, the students said they enjoyed the event and look forward to coming again in 2021.
"I see a lot of people, they got that quizzical look on their face, in a positive kind of way," Martin said. "Maybe they learned something today that they didn't really know about the Army. That's what makes this special."
Martin revealed that although the large-scale recruitment event was the first of its kind, it set a standard and is expected to be replicated at other installations.