Thursday, September 27, 2012

MilJo - Part 2

We’ve had a couple early days this week. On Wednesday, Sept. 26 my alarm went off at 3:30 a.m. and I was out the door by 4 a.m. At about 4:15 our bus pulled out and off we went to meet some Army personnel for physical training. After a half hour tour of the barracks, we headed over to their indoor training facility as it was storming, complete with thunder and lightning. 

We were told that anyone who wanted to participate could, so OF COURSE I hopped right in, and I believe I was only one of four of our group that did, and the only female. As they were doing ground drills, I found that I was able to keep up with the recruits. We did pushups, leg lifts, leg tucks, supporting our body on the right and left arm, sit-ups, a whole slew of activities. Then after that we headed over to the bars for some pull-up activities. I found out I did not have a trouble with the shoulder shrugs or doing the shrug while leaning back, but there was no way I was managing a pull-up, the last time i successfully did one I was 14. Another time they had to hang onto the bar and lift their feet up and wrap them around the bar. I was able to get mine to about 90 degrees. 

We were unable to do the Confidence Course, a military style obstacle course, because of the thunderstorm. As much as I was disappointed at not getting to challenge myself against the other recruits, I was happy that they at least stopped by the course and I was able to get some photos. 

After that, we headed back to the hotel for “personal hygiene time.” For some of the others, it was not necessary, but for me doing physical training for an hour, I was extremely grateful. 

After we were all squeaky clean we headed over to where the students enrolled in the engineer course of study stay, were able to check out their living quarters, which are different from my original thought when it comes to military sleeping quarters. Instead of having metal bunk beds stacked in a darkened room, each recruit had what appeared to be a twin bed, all in a row. 

From there, we headed to one of my favorite parts, the simulated shooting range. And this is not your typical shooting simulation, such as the one the Deerfield Pistol and Archery Center has, or the one utilized by Dane County deputies. There were no handguns, no Glocks of Smith and Wessons. Instead, there were weapons like an M2 weapon trainer and an MK 64 Mod. One was even attached to the top of a humvee. Two words: freakin’ awesome! Thanks in large part to a couple of my fellow attendees I have both photos and video of my performance, which will be up later. 

Here I was thinking that I already was able to do PT with the Army boys and “shoot” an M2 in a simulation. How could this day get any better? One word: robotics. We were showed some of the robotics the Army utilizes for the detection and removal of improvised explosive devices, or IEDs. They have this tiny little robot with four cameras, including one which can sweep around 360 degrees. The operator can also utilize a claw in the front to pick up items such as hand grenades. I had the opportunity to operate a Talon robot, but as fun as that was, it was no way the highlight of the robotics. 

At the end, I was able to go down and check out this M160. Military personnel use it for road clearance if they suspect IEDs are present. The machine can travel 1,500 feet ahead of the operator, can take up to 18 hits and has different attachments. The price tag is about $250,000 for one, but the savings come in the hundreds if not thousands of lives that are saved. 

We were told that we would be unable to operate the machine as they had military personnel training on it. When I went down I was able to interview Staff Sergeant Tim Nichols about the M160 and the training recruits have to go through to be considered proficient to operate one. As I was wrapping up and getting ready to go, he handed me the controls, put the strap around my neck and let me operate it! I literally never expected to have that opportunity, and I was the only one in the group who had that experience. You better believe it when I say I was up on cloud nine the rest of the day!

If you think my day ended there, however, you are dead wrong. It was only 3 in the afternoon. After the robotics course we were able to see how they apply it in the field during a road clearance operation. We stood at the top of a hill and one of the smaller robotics investigated a suspicious package, placed a tag on the package, which was then detonated, rendering the suspected explosive harmless. 

Afterwards we had an opportunity to interview some of the military personnel present, and I was able to speak to Private First Class Joel Barrett, who was a graduate of Carthage College in Kenosha. A profile on him will be available at a later date. 

Our final transition of the day included taking a look at the facilities the Army uses to train personnel in dealing with hazardous chemicals. There used to be various facilities across the United States, but after 9/11 a central location was established in Fort Leonard Wood, Mo. I won’t go into too much more detail, but suffice it to say it was definitely an educational experience. 

Unfortunately, our final scheduled event of the day, a Night Infiltration Course, was cancelled because they apparently did not have a group on base that could take us through that. While I am sure it would have been awesome to see/do that, I’m not going to complain. After all, I got to drive the M160!

The rest of the night was ours, and after dinner and watching the latest episode of Criminal Minds, I tucked into bed. After all, Thursday we needed to be showered, packed and on the bus by 6 a.m.

To check out more photos from Wednesday's (Sept. 26) events, click here

Check back tomorrow afternoon for Part 3 of the Military and the Media workshop, which will include an accounting of our last day at Fort Leonard Wood, before heading back to Fort Leavenworth. I’m definitely going to be sad to have to go back home....

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