In the early hours of the morning, Soldiers and civilians walked through the doors of the Bicentennial Chapel conference room in groups of twos and threes. Within minutes the conference room was full of conversation, rising and falling like the waves of the ocean.
Everyone lined up for a hot breakfast, then took their place at the tables to eat and listen to 1st Lt. Walter Reall give a safety brief and explain the events to come.
The eight civilians and their military sponsors are here to participate in Fort Gordon's Augusta in Army Boots program sponsored by 63rd Signal Battalion (Expeditionary) and 35th Signal Brigade from Oct. 24-25.
The Augusta in Army Boots program gives civilians, leaders within their own community, a chance to wear the Army uniform and experience a day in the life of a Soldier in an up close and personal way.
In turn, these leaders become ambassadors for the Army in the Central Savannah River Area by sharing their experiences with family, friends, and co-workers. This gives the community a better understanding of the achievements and difficulties Soldiers face on a daily basis.
"Our Soldiers get a greater understanding of the people they live around and it is a mutual advantage because the leaders in the CSRA get a better understanding of the Fort Gordon community. It enriches the community as a whole," said Lt. Col. Keith A. Garwold, commander of the 63rd ESB.
The first day began with training in Combat Life Saver skills provided by Soldiers from the Dwight D. Eisenhower Medical Center that ranged from clearing an airway to treating an open chest wound.
Next was on to the floor mats for a couple of rounds with a certified Combatives Instructor. The instructor gave everyone a chance to practice basic guard positions, and then they
were taught how to put an enemy in a choke hold. The final lesson was how to do a proper arm bar hold that would have any opponent tapping out in seconds.
"This program was very intense; you have to be in check mentally, physically, and have a plan. It was not what I expected, it was more. I think it gave me a little insight into what my own son, an airborne ranger, has gone through," said Rachael Grant, a corporate manager with Verizon Wireless.
The afternoon was full of instruction on basic rifleman skills; high and low crawl, react to direct and indirect fire, and how to clear a room. These skills were later used when the participants were put to the test with a weapons cache scenario. This type of training scenario involved searching a whole village of civilians for a weapons cache, with the possibility of engaging with enemy in the area.
Steven Scott, the chief operating officer at Georgia Health Sciences Medical Center, said, "Personally, I thought it was incredible and very life changing for me in terms of understanding what soldiers must go through to prepare mentally and physically, in order to maintain safety and achieve their target."
The weapons cache scenario also pointed out how important leadership is in the field and knowing who to look for, in a cloudy, sightless situation, said Scott.