FORT HOOD, Texas -- It's a standard Friday afternoon and Wolfpack Soldiers are gathered together for a standard Friday close-out safety briefing prior to going their separate ways for another standard weekend.
However, on this otherwise standard Friday, the Soldiers of 4th Special Troops Battalion, 4th Sustainment Brigade, were gathered for some nonstandard training at a very nonstandard location.
The Soldiers were standing tall in formation; not in the motor pool; not on a physical training field; not at the battalion's headquarters building; but rather at the Starlight Station nightclub in Killeen.
Lt. Col. Angelia Holbrook, commander, 4th STB, wanted to try a new approach to the standard safety briefing by training at a local establishment which numerous Soldiers frequent on their weekends and evenings.
"We do a lot of PowerPoint presentations," said Holbrook, referring to the all too accustomed standard training method. "If we're really going to get them to change their decisions that they make while they're out having fun, we're going to have to do it in a way that doesn't bore them to death and also causes them to think before they have to act. I think we accomplished it with something outside the box like this."
By simply holding the training at a different location was not enough for the Wolfpack Battalion, it was also important that the unit team up with other local partners such as the owner and employees of the bar and Killeen Police Department to share additional points of view on situations Soldiers could find themselves in.
"By seeing and hearing the other side of the story, and by hearing the repercussions of poor actions, I want them to hear about it from professionals who deal with it on a regular basis," continued Holbrook. "Sometimes when you step outside yourself and look in you can see 'oh yeah, that is stupid' or 'I wouldn't want that done to me'; I want them to think ahead to avoid bad situations."
This was a great opportunity for not only the unit and its Soldiers; it was also a chance for the staff of the local nightclub to share insight as to what trends and mistakes they see from Fort Hood Soldiers and other patrons as well as share what Soldiers can do to avoid common problem situations.
"We contacted the owner of the club and asked if we could come in and do this event and he welcomed us with open arms," said Capt. Rock Stevens, commander, 207th Signal Company, 4th STB, who organized the training event. "Often you see when local businesses are having problems they don't want to have it advertised, but here, they are the complete opposite. They want to help us fix the problems, instead of sweeping it under the rug."
Not only is it important to train the Soldiers, but maintaining communication between the unit commanders on post and the local business leaders and law enforcement officials is critical to helping the commanders understand what their Soldiers are experiencing during the weekends.
"It's vastly important" to work together with the Fort Hood command teams, said Lt. Frank Plowick, KPD. By working together, "we can better understand each other's needs and how we can better help the Soldiers. There's nothing better than having that dialog with the unit commanders."
Sgt. 1st Class Fredrick Smith, logistics noncommissioned officer-in-charge, 4th STB, said that the training was an eye-opening experience that helped him learn more about the environments available for his junior enlisted troops around Fort Hood.
"I'm not in a position where I come out to the same environments as the Soldiers do" said Smith. "Having that experience and coming out here to where the Soldiers come out, it gives me more insight as to what goes on and what activities are happening. It makes it more realistic for us. I think anytime you can do something different from your normal close-out formations, the Soldiers are going to take in the information better."
Overall, Stevens said the training was a success and hopes the Soldiers take the information they were given and make better, more informed decisions while enjoying the local nightlife.
"If a Soldier of mine comes out tonight, I hope they come here with their eyes a little wider open -- that they see things that they weren't able to see before and that they're more situationally aware," said Stevens. "If one Soldier's life is saved because of this event, then it was all worth it. Our overall goal is to improve the overall health and discipline of the battalion."