FORT JACKSON, S.C. -- In a few weeks, we will kick off our "Come See Your Army Tours" for 2012. I am a big advocate of educating the public about what the Army does at Fort Jackson. Every rmy career is a great story, and the initial chapter often begins right here with those who attend Basic Combat Training. In a few weeks, we will showcase BCT to the public as we host the first of our "Come See Your Army Tours" for 2012. The Come See Your Army Tour is geared toward our friends and neighbors in our nearby communities.

Visitors experience some of the hospitality that we serve up all year round and are able to view first-hand what we actually do in the training of new Soldiers. The six-hour "Come See Your Army Tour" shows some of the highlights of day-to-day operations of BCT. Visitors attend a BCT graduation, watch Soldiers train, learn to shoot on a weapons simulator and eat in a dining facility.

The visitors also receive a briefing from a command group leader, who gives them an overview of Fort Jackson and the variety of activities that occur here on a daily basis.

At the end of the tour, visitors leave with an appreciation of the Army, its men and women. Relatives of those participating in BCT leave with an idea of the training their Soldiers undergo as well as an image as to how and where they live. Veterans leave with a new understanding of the changed training methodology, equipment and the role that technology plays. Everyone leaves with a sense of pride.

This Come See Your Army Tour is also a way of showing our communities that we appreciate their support. We are proud of what we do, and we want our neighbors to share in that pride. They have supported us throughout the years, and we have supported them. It's truly a great relationship that is nearly 100 years old and still going strong.

The tours tend to attract a mix of people, including veterans who may have been through Fort Jackson in the past, young men and women considering the Army as a career choice, and curious citizens who just want to learn a little more about one of the largest employers in the greater Columbia area. These tours are especially beneficial for visitors who have never been on an Army post prior to this experience. They get an up-close look of the process that transforms civilians into Soldiers.

The tour initiative falls in line with the goals of the Army Community Covenant, which is designed to foster state and community partnerships with the Army and improve the quality of life for Soldiers and Families.

What makes these tours so great is the connection that so many visitors establish with our Soldiers. It's amazing how a little bit of time and willingness to answer a few questions can go such a long way in building the trust and goodwill that are vital in maintaining support for our Soldiers. When you build connections, you build community. And that's perhaps the most important benefit of all.

For 2012, there are four of these tours planned. The initial tour for 2012 is Feb. 16. The tour begins at 8:45 a.m. and reservations are required by Feb. 13. I invite you to share the information with friends and neighbors.

For reservations, call (803) 751-1474.

Army Strong ! Victory Starts Here!