The National Training Center and Fort Irwin made a wish come true for eight-year-old Carson Gardner, as a part of a Make-A-Wish® event on May 24.
Carson has a progressive condition called Duchenne’s Muscular Dystrophy for which there’s no known cure, and wanted to be a Soldier for a day-- shadowing an Army leader, conducting drills and riding in a military tank.
“Carson loves everything to do with the Army,” Make a Wish representative, Melissa Gallager, said. “Fort Irwin knocked it out of the park for Carson’s wish. Carson never stopped smiling.”
The 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment, along with the 916th Support Brigade provided a full day of activities for Carson and five of his family members. The day began with a meet and greet with the Commanding General of the NTC/Fort Irwin, Brig. Gen. Curtis Taylor where Carson was promoted to 2nd Lieutenant. Carson went on to be promoted throughout the day at each of his stops, culminating with the final rank of Colonel by 11th ACR Commander, Col. Todd Hook.
“We were proud to have the opportunity to be a part of Carson’s special day,” 11th ACR’s Capt. Evan Cain said. “I think some of the Soldiers Carson met, and the experiences he had while serving as an honorary Blackhorse Trooper will stay with him for a very long time.”
The day included a demonstration of various pyrotechnic simulations and artillery firing, a UH-60 Black Hawk aerial training demo, rides in three combat-style vehicles, weapons simulations, tours of military vehicles and aircraft, meeting and petting the unit’s horses, an opportunity to consume military meals-ready-to-eat (MREs) and more. Carson was not a fan of the MREs but said he had an exciting day.
“Riding in the tank was my favorite part of the day,” he said. “The helicopters were awesome!”
Carson was able to participate in all of the day’s activities while in an official Army uniform that included his official name tag.
“We at the National Training Center are honored to be able to fulfill this dream for Carson,” Brig. Gen. Taylor said. “To be able to introduce him and his family to what our brave men and women do daily is a privilege and to work with such a great organization like Make-A-Wish® demonstrates the Army’s effort to collaborate with and support our community partners.”
The National Training Center and Fort Irwin conducts an average of ten training rotations a year, training Armored Brigade Combat Teams with realistic joint and combined arms training. U.S. and international troops from all of the services spend a 21-one day rotation before deploying overseas. The units were happy to give Carson a taste of what they do each month.
“Even with a disability, if you have the determination and will to do things, you can do it and enjoy the time you have on earth with the people you love, admire and look up to,” Katie Mead, Carson’s mother said. “He had an amazing day and he will never forget this!”