FORT HOOD, Texas - Nearly 75 students, representing high schools from surrounding communities, met with Soldiers from 1st Battalion, 62nd Air Defense Artillery Regiment, 69th Air Defense Artillery Brigade, to learn about what they do on a day-to-day basis in the "Day in the Life of a Soldier" event at Lightning Ranch, the brigade's headquarters here, Jan. 27.
In the morning, the students were ushered into the motor pool where six stations full of different learning opportunities awaited them. Some were hands-on activities including plasma cutting where students were given the chance to cut metal themselves under the close supervision of the Soldiers that use them every day. Other stations allowed students to learn the history of 1st Bn., 62nd ADA Regt., or speak to Copperas Cove recruiters about a career in the Army.
“Our desire is that the students learned about the great career options available to them in the military,” said Lt. Col. Kristopher Perrin, commander, 1st Bn., 62nd ADA Regt. “Our Army is a place where you can truly be all that you want. The diversity of career options, our missions and our people are what makes this profession so unique and rewarding. If we share that, then the young adults can make a more informed decision about the Army.”
One of the Junior Reserve Officers' Training Corps programs represented was from Killeen Independent School District’s newest high school, Chaparral. Cadet Lt. Col. Amaria Young said she was happy that she was able to learn some new things during her time at the motor pool because she’s been soaking up as much information about the military through other experiences.
“I’ve been through a lot of processes like this before,” she shared. “The interactions (here) though (were) more hands-on than just watching something. I was interested in the fact that we could actually get into the tangible side of things.”
Cadet 1st Lt. Jason Jimenez also enjoyed the hands-on activities.
“My favorite part was going to see the plasma cutting and the CNC (Computer Numerical Control) machine. I haven’t seen a CNC machine work before so it was something new and different.”
Cadet 2nd Lt. Lilah Burns enjoyed the plasma cutting like Jimenez, but also enjoyed a challenge she and her peers were given. At a station, where the students were shown the gear and weapons Soldiers use, they competed to see who could belly crawl fastest across the room properly holding a firearm. Burns finished just slightly behind Jimenez.
“It was nice to try plasma cutting, but it was also really fun to do that crawl thing. I hate that I came in second,” she said, laughing.
Cpl. Wade Hellums, medic with Charlie Battery, 1st Bn., 62nd ADA Regt., 69th ADA, was excited to share his career experience and show the high school students what options they could have for the next chapter of their lives outside of college.
“For me, we couldn’t afford to go to college, (and the students) need to know that there’s a secondary route and a good way to start your life … to get into further education and to expand your knowledge before you go into the real world,” he explained.
Young agreed, saying these experiences provide students who are interested in a military career with a chance to see what options are available to them and it is a great networking opportunity for the future.
“Seeing different people do the job that you want might help you want to do it more or get more information about it. They (may) provide you with answers that you’ve never received before,” Jimenez added.
Burns agreed, adding, “This experience has made it so that I’m able to easily see the different jobs in the military and that includes the plasma cutting. I hadn’t tried plasma cutting yet and welding so this makes it very comprehensible.”
Perrin was happy to see so much curiosity from the students, as well as the knowledge shared by his Soldiers.
“The most enjoyable part of the event was watching the interaction between the Soldiers and the students,” he said. “Given the day’s activities, we thought the students would have a blast. They were more inquisitive than we anticipated. But the Soldiers surprised me with how much fun they had sharing their day and Army experiences with the students. It was a proud moment for our Army and our surrounding community.
“Positive relationships with our surrounding communities are critical to the success of The Great Place,” Perrin continued. “A healthy relationship between the installation and surrounding communities makes our assignment here so much more rewarding and enjoyable. We live here. We shop here. Our kids go to school here, play sports here. For a few years of our life, these communities are our communities. It’s important to invest in that. This event did exactly that.”