By Stephanie HoffJuly 21, 2010
MANHATTAN, Kan. - The professor stood at the front of the classroom as his students listened intently. The only difference from an ordinary class in the Kansas State University chemistry lab, was that this course would only be a day long and the 'students' wore Army Combat Uniforms.
Thirty Soldiers with the 172nd Chemical Company, 84th Explosive Ordnance Disposal Battalion traveled to the KSU campus July 7, where they received the opportunity to train at one of the campus' chemistry labs, under the supervision of one of the college's chemistry professors.
"We can't provide the Soldiers training like this in the school house. This is something that we don't get to do all the time. It's not very frequent that Soldiers are able to receive hands-on training from college professors. This is amazing," said 2nd Lt. Keith Byers, the company's 3rd Platoon leader. "For many of the Soldiers, this is the first time that most of them get to use actual laboratory equipment and conduct lab work."
The Soldiers were educated on the fundamental understandings of the principles of organic chemistry. Some of their experiments involved extracting caffeine from tea, as well as unit operations which included different methods of crystallization, distillation and extraction.
"It's a very welcomed change to teach a group who actually has a real interest in chemistry and will need that knowledge in the field or when they deploy," said Dr. Stefan Bossmann, a KSU professor of chemistry, who instructed the Soldiers. "This is just one more stepping stone into having good relations between the campus, Fort Riley and our military."
The Soldiers additionally gained valuable training on chemicals, such as explosives and narcotic detections they can utilize while deployed in theater, said 2nd Lt. Andrew Owens, the company's 2nd Platoon leader.
"The organic lab that the Soldiers are getting to experience is far more than we expected," he said. "This has served as a great opportunity to allow the Soldiers to experience a college chemistry laboratory, as well as the KSU campus."
The training marked the first of its kind to take place as a result of the growing partnership between KSU and Fort Riley, Bossmann and Owens both said. Additionally, the trip served as the first time, for some of the chemical company's Soldiers, in a college chemistry lab.
"I'm excited. This is really cool to see how it all actually happens," said Pfc. Christina Walton. "It's a privilege being here. We haven't been able to do training exactly like this before. Being here is an honor, not many people get to do it."