FORT BENNING, Ga. (April 4, 2012) -- High school technology teacher and U.S. Army advocate Robert Tufte puts a priority on exposing technology to his students at Cheektowaga Central High School in upstate New York as often as possible. He therefore made it one of his priorities to attend the Army Strong Experience (ASE) at Fort Benning on March 15-16 so he could see firsthand the Army's technology in action.
"When you stop and think about it, everything here at ASE plays into science, technology, engineering and math," Tufte said. "There is such an incredible amount of technology in all of the machinery that goes into keeping our nation safe, and it's important our country's youth see and experience that so they see the importance of -- and get excited about -- technology."
Tufte was one of 50 Army advocates who attended the 2012 ASE at Fort Benning, hosted by the U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit (USAMU). Tufte and other attendees also had the opportunity to attend the inaugural Army Strong Collegiate Shooting Championships, which took place March 13-18, which was also hosted by the USAMU. Other attendees of the ASE included more than 500 Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps (JROTC) cadets, 70 congressional staffers and students from 33 different colleges.
"We think it's incredibly important to host the shooting championships and demonstrations at the same time as ASE because USAMU enhances the Army's recruiting efforts and raises the standard of the Army's marksmanship proficiency," said Lt. Col. Daniel Hodne, USAMU's commanding officer. "There are also a lot of things in competitive shooting that can translate into the daily lives of the ASE attendees, such as the importance of having a razor-like focus on things like doing well in school and the intense desire to succeed."
During two days of ASE events, students, cadets (ROTC and JROTC), their teachers and mentors, and Army advocates had the opportunity to learn more about the Army's elite forces. Participants gained a unique and true-to-life perspective as they watched some of the world's most skilled Soldiers display their capabilities. The ASE activities and demonstrations commenced with a Hands on Training Exercise (HOTEX). Soldiers from the 197th Infantry Brigade and 1st and 2nd Battalions, 29th Infantry Regiment showcased the Army's capabilities to hundreds of attendees in a live fire exercise with Bradley and Stryker vehicles, mortars and an Infantry squad.
The ASE also included demonstrations by the U.S. Army Rangers from the Ranger Training Brigade that included mountaineering, demolition and hand-to-hand combat. While these demonstrations represented only a small fraction of what Rangers learn during their 61-day, 20-hours-a-day combat leadership course, they still left attendees in awe. Other demonstrations included Ranger aviation insertion and extraction techniques.
"The Rangers in Action demonstration is important because it illustrates the extreme challenges our Soldiers often face on little sleep, with little food, in very high stress environments," Sgt. 1st Class Ronald Hansen said. "It also illustrates leadership because it's important for Soldiers to do their part in planning, execution and withdrawal under extreme conditions. This type of precision translates into many other areas of life."
Other ASE events included a USAMU Action Shooting Steel Challenge demonstration and a shotgun demonstration. Spectators at the USAMU shotgun demonstration enjoyed performances by two world-class shooters: Staff Sgt. Joshua Richmond and Staff Sgt. Mark Weeks. Richmond is ranked number one in the world in Double Trap and has been selected for the 2012 U.S. Olympic team. Weeks is the former U.S. Olympic Shotgun Team coach for the 2008 Beijing games.
The ASE events concluded with attendees witnessing the Airborne 5000 demonstration of Fort Benning's Silver Wings exhibition parachute team and Airborne School instructors. Black Hat instructors from the 199th Infantry Brigade and 1st Battalion, 507th Parachute Infantry Regiment showcased the capabilities of the modern U.S. Airborne Soldier to hundreds of onlookers.
"It's just been an absolutely incredible experience to be here and see the excitement and awe on everyone's faces," said Tufte, an Army advocate and high school technology teacher. "It gives me hope for our country's future that the U.S. Army is putting such a high priority on events like ASE that help not only with showcasing the Army's new technology, but also with recruiting the best and the brightest."