FORT SILL, Okla.--Civilians stepped out of their offices April 22 and went onto the ranges where Soldiers execute their daily tasks. It was the first "Team Sill, On Target" staff ride.

The group met outside the Fort Sill Welcome Center, which was fitting since the tour was meant to do just that welcome them to post. Not everyone in attendance was a new employee to Fort Sill, but they all shared a common curiosity about the artillery fire they hear on a regular basis.
Their first stop was to the contingency operations location where forward observers were training. The civilians peered through barriers to see plumes of smoke on the range and experience a little of what Soldiers do on the job.

"We see Soldiers every day coming in our building, but we don't really realize what they're doing once they go out those doors," said Janet Tippeconnic, Family & Morale, Welfare and Recreation Edge Program partnership specialist.

Larry Aller, Range Control chief, led the charge explaining how the training areas are used and the importance of using particular equipment in those areas.

"MLRS or HIMARS have a back blast of 700 meters and the back of their rocket once it fires takes off like a frisby and just spins. If it fired out here it would be knocking off Mow-Way House and putting everybody in harms way," he said.

Jay Khalifeh, Employee Assistance Program coordinator, came up with the idea of a civilian staff ride to better the civilians' understanding of what happens outside of their cubicles.

"This is to help them learn and associate what they're actually doing and how it's helping the war effort. And, also it's fun. It builds esprit de corps."

Khalifeh said the last round of civilian employment surveys showed the ability to get civilians intellectually and emotionally attached to their jobs was severely lacking. That's something he plans on changing.

"One of my passions is to figure out how to get people to enjoy what they do and feel passionate about what they do. There's so much waste, such as people in jobs that are not a good fit for them or people just don't understand what they're supposed to be doing and don't understand the importance of what they're doing and the bigger picture."

The bigger picture is exactly what they got as their next stop was to the forward operating base, Brig. Gen. Horace L. Sanders Training Area. It is meant to replicate the living conditions Soldiers would experience while deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan. The guests got the chance to see where the Soldiers eat, sleep and work, and they only wanted to see more.

"Team Sill, On Target was meant to get civilians on target with what we do here," said Khalifeh.
Afterward, rounds from howitzers whizzed over their heads as the group climbed Daly Hill. A comment came out from one of the civilians stating - "I hear them everyday, I want to see them."

They got what they asked for as they saw the ordnance hit its target on a hillside. And, hopefully they saw the impact of their daily tasks on the Army mission.

Tippeconnic said she believed the staff ride would be a great experience for all civilians so they can better understand the importance of their jobs.

"A lot of people just come to work and get a paycheck, but I feel it's about a lot more than that," said Tippeconnic.

This was the first staff ride for civilians but Khalifeh said the response has already been overwhelming positive and they are planning for more in the future. He said some even asked for the "real" Army experience including a meal of MREs next time.