For approximately 20 years, Fort McPherson has held the Summer Hire Program.

Last year, I missed the age requirement to meet the qualifications to apply by two days.

This year, I was old enough.

When I received the call stating I got the job, I was really excited.

This was my first job and I didn't know what to expect; I was a little nervous.

However, this has been an experience I will never forget.

I was assigned to the U.S. Army Garrison Public Affairs Office.

For someone like me who wants to have a career in photography, the PAO was the perfect place.

The PAO at the USAG is divided into four sections: Command Information, Community Relations, Media Relations and overall public affairs.

By working here, I've gained experience in all four areas.

Before starting the job, I thought being at school for seven hours a day would make an eight-hour workday a piece of cake. I was wrong.

My first week was the busiest. I learned a lot through those days, but I was exhausted when I got home.

My mom noticed, smiled and said, "Welcome to the real world."

Although my first week was tough, the following weeks came easier.

By working in the PAO, my photography skills have improved and I've gained a lot of experience in community relations.

By being a part of planning some events, I've realized that I wouldn't mind having a career in community relations.

I think it's safe to say I'm not the only summer hire who enjoyed this experience.

Other summer hires that I have met during my time here have also expressed a sense of enjoyment working at Fort McPherson.

Kasey Watkins, who is also doing the SHP for the first time and was assigned to the School Liaison Office, said, "I'm enjoying learning a lot and getting to know the people who work here. I like Fort McPherson and being in an Army environment."

Kasey, 17, is the niece of Carolyn Watson, acting budget officer, Resource Management Office, USAG.

Summer Hire Monique Cook was assigned to the logistics department of the Lawrence Joel U.S. Army Health Clinic.

She explained to me that this was her third time being a summer hire, and she was enjoying her time here.

When I asked her if she would do it again if the base wasn't closing, she replied, "Yes, definitely."

Monique is the daughter of Artmus Cook, human resource assistant, USAG Military Personnel Division, Directorate of Human Resources. Priscilla Bowens, human resource specialist, and Allen Wall, labor relations officer, both of the Civilian Personnel Advisory Center, said due to BRAC, there will not be a SHP next year.

I'm sad that this will be my only opportunity to be a part of the SHP, but I am happy that I was able to try it at least once.

I will truly miss Fort McPherson and if I had the chance to be a part of the SHP again, I would.

Although the "real world" is tough, this job has provided me with skills that I can, and will, use in my future. This experience has been the opportunity of a lifetime and I'm glad I was able to participate in it.