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Civilians on Tour Get to Know American Soldiers Overseas

By Sgt. Sara Wood, USA
American Forces Press Service

GRAFENWOEHR, Germany, Oct. 20, 2005 – Business professionals and civic leaders on a tour of military installations got a closer look Oct. 19 at what many leaders call the Army's most valuable resource: the American soldier.

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Katherine Fernandez Rundle, state attorney for Miami-Dade County, Florida, gets a Kevlar helmet fitted by a soldier at the 7th Army Training Center, in Grafenwoehr, Germany, Oct. 19. Rundle was a participant in the Joint Civilian Orientation Course, a weeklong program designed to familiarize civilian business professionals with the military. Photo by Sgt. Sara Wood, USA

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.

Participants in the Joint Civilian Orientation Conference made a stop at the Grafenwoehr Army Airfield and were taken to the 7th Army Joint Multinational Training Command here to see how the Army trains. The day included an extensive live-fire demonstration and an opportunity to fire many different weapons. But the real purpose of the visit was for the civilians to get to know the soldiers behind the equipment.

"We have all this great equipment, but the individuals who actually operate it are what's important," said Army 2nd Lt. Samuel Haynes, with 1st Squadron, 1st Cavalry Regiment, in Budingen, Germany. Haynes' squadron traveled from Budingen to take the lead in the equipment display for the civilians, he said.

Haynes said this is his first experience as a liaison to the civilian community, but he thinks the conference is a good idea because it fosters understanding and lets the civilians get a hands-on view of what soldiers do.

Many of the civilians said they enjoyed the interaction with the soldiers and were impressed by the attitude and spirit they showed. The civilians ate a lunch of individually packaged military rations -- known as MREs, for "meals, ready-to-eat" -- with the soldiers, where they were able to talk with them about their experiences.

"These guys are great," said Maria Zammit, vice chairman of the World Affairs Councils of America, in Washington, D.C. "They're incredible. They're so well-trained; you feel like you're in good hands with these guys."

Zammit said she was very impressed by coordination between the soldiers during the live-fire demonstration, which included tanks, Bradley fighting vehicles and AH-64 Apache helicopters.

"You realize that these people are skilled, they are trained and they all have to coalesce, otherwise it would be one dangerous operation," she said.

At the weapons range, the civilians were able to fire M4 rifles, M-240B machine guns and .50-caliber guns. They were also given the chance to fire the guns on M1A1 Abrams tanks and Bradley fighting vehicles.

The Joint Civilian Orientation Conference is a weeklong program designed to familiarize civilian business professionals with the military by taking them on a worldwide tour of military installations.

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Related Sites:
7th Army Joint Multinational Training Command
Joint Civilian Orientation Conference

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