During a field trip Dec. 12, more than 60 middle-school students got a taste of what every Basic Combat Training Soldier experiences each day.
The seventh graders from Dent Middle School in Columbia spent about three hours with 1st Battalion, 34th Infantry Regiment drill sergeants and BCT Soldiers learning about canine units, throwing hand grenades, firing weapons, donning combat gear and getting a taste of Army chow.
"I liked shooting the gun (squad automatic weapon) the best," said Zimmie Smith-Day. "I thought we were going to have to do push-ups."
Alexia Grissett-Moore agrees that firing the weapon was the best part of the day.
"It was a lot of fun," she said. "I've shot guns on games before, but never a real one."
Kevin Johnson also enjoyed the SAW, but said he was surprised at how easy it was to throw a hand grenade.
"It (throwing a grenade) was much easier than throwing a baseball," he said. "It wasn't nearly as hard as I thought it would be."
The battalion has partnered with Dent Middle School as part of a local outreach effort to mentor the students and create a positive connection with the Soldiers.
"It was a great opportunity to allow the students to learn about the U.S. Army and to showcase some of the training that our Soldiers receive during BCT," said Lt. Col. Kenneth Royalty, battalion commander. "However, out of all of the events, I think they enjoyed eating in the mess hall the best."
Many of the students did indeed look forward to eating in a real "mess hall," particularly Shimon Burris.
"It's going to be fun! I'm looking forward to eating in the chow hall with my friends," he said. "This has been so much fun, now I'm thinking about joining the Army."
The event was a success according to Capt. Chris Haynes.
"It was just nice to see the smile on the kids' faces and know we did something good for the community," he said.