Students from South Aiken High School got a glimpse of how civilians are transformed into Soldiers during a Navy Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps cadet orientation tour at Fort Jackson Aug. 4.
“Really, we wanted to expose these youngsters to a military base. For the majority of these youngsters this is the first time they have been on any kind of military installation,” said Claude Davis, senior Naval Science Instructor at South Aiken High School. “It opens their eye to the other opportunities that are open to them.”
The students started their tour witnessing the graduation of 1st Battalion, 13th Infantry Regiment at Hilton Field. The tour followed with a stop at the Basic Combat Training Museum where they saw the evolution of the Army’s uniforms, weapons, fighting vehicles and how Soldiers are trained.
“I want to go into (the Army) so being here I wanted to see what it’s like,” said Emma Stone, sophomore. “I love it.”
“Fort Jackson is huge,” said Sarah Rice, junior. “You can look up video of basic training, but they only show so much. Here you can see everything, see the people going through basic and working here and how they are when they aren’t in front of a camera.”
Stone comes from a Navy family and is interested in enlisting in the Army after completing high school while Stone is interested in becoming a teacher and possibly working for the Department of Defense Education Activity.
Staff Sgt. Michael Vork, a drill sergeant assigned to 3rd Battalion, 60th Infantry Regiment, led the group through the museum and onto the Fit to Win II Course where the students walked through the course getting a demonstration of how to tackle the obstacles. They also witnessed trainees completing part of an adjoining course.
He also showed the students how trainees live by stopping by the barracks his trainees currently live in as they complete their cycle of training before having lunch trainee style at the dining facility.
“I think this (tour) helps the younger generations with the thoughts of, ‘Do I want to go to college? Do I want to stay at home? Do I want to become an entrepreneur? What do I want to do with my life?’” Vork said. “I think this is a great way to open their eyes to a bigger horizon then what is shown on Facebook, Instagram, the media and TV.”
While high school students face completing their final years of primary schooling, they are also faced with decisions that will impact their future success. While many students will continue on to colleges and universities, many can face financial hardships or may not want to pursue college.
Some may wish to enter into a trade or may chose to enlist for the many benefits that military service can offer such as tuition assistance, Post 9/11 G.I. Bill and full medical, dental and vision benefits in addition to stable income.
Davis said, “it’s an option.” Davis knows a thing or two about military service as he is a retired Marine Corp colonel. He also has children of his own and affords his students the same father advice he gives his own children.
“I tell them that we are a family, and I will be their NJROTC dad. Just like my kids, I will help them, advise them and whatever I can except buy them their first car,” Davis said. “This is our first tour here at Fort Jackson and I think it was successful for everyone. So, thank you to Fort Jackson for allowing us to bring our youngsters in and get a glimpse of what goes on here.”