A Behind The Scenes Look At An Army Base
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This past week I had the opportunity to go on an army educator tour to Fort Sill in Oklahoma to learn more about the army and get an inside look at their training. I was there to film, so I could create a news package about the army for my school's newscast. I got to see where they eat, sleep, attend classes, workout, and train. It was a really cool experience, and I now have a better understanding of the army and more respect for what they do to fight for our country.

At the beginning of the tour I was given a survey. One of the questions asked how many people ages 18-35 qualify to join the army. I want you to stop and think for a second before I tell you the answer. What percentage do you think it is? Knowing little to nothing about the army, I wrote down 85 percent. I learned that I was completely wrong and not even close to the right answer, which was around 24 percent. Out of that 24 percent only 1 percent actually serves in the army. There are many things that disqualify people from the army such as: health, fitness, morality and education. I learned that a high school diploma or GED is required to join the army. Also, before joining, everyone must take the ASVAB or Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery Test, which is a multiple choice, timed test that helps people identify which job is best suited for them. If they do not get a high enough score, they may not qualify for certain branches in the military.

Next I got to tour the sleeping quarters. The men and women soldiers have separated sleeping quarters, which is the only time the genders are separated. I only toured the female quarters, which consisted of one big room filled with two rows of bunk beds. There were also several showers, sinks, and toilets connected to the room. It reminded me a lot of the college dorms where everyone in the hall shares a bathroom. Each bed was perfectly made with their military duffel bags hanging from the beds and several different types of shoes such as black flip flops, tennis shoes and boots lined up under the beds. Next to each bed was a small cupboard/ closet for the soldiers to store their uniform and other clothes. On a white board in the room was a schedule which consisted of the soldiers getting up at 0500 or 5 o'clock a.m. for physical training. I learned the soldiers had a strict schedule and were limited to what belongings they could keep. The basic trainees or "newbies," who train for about three months, have their phones taken away and are not able to have any contact with friends and family. Once they are done with basic training they get their phones back, but only on Sunday mornings.

Next I went to the chow hall where the basic trainees have lunch. I ate there and experienced for myself what they eat everyday. When I initially told my friends and family I'd be doing this, they reacted by telling me the food would probably be gross or was surprised I was willing to do that. I was excited to experience it because I like to try new things, but I was also worried it would be kind of gross. We were all completely wrong. The chow hall was set up like a college cafeteria. I grabbed a tray and went through a line looking at different food options such as chicken, vegetable mixes, mashed potatoes, noodles, etc. telling the workers behind the counter what I wanted. There was also a salad bar with many different salad leaf options and different sauces. There were also extra items such as breads and yogurts at the salad bar. The drink options were fairly limited, especially for people who are big soda drinkers because there wasn't any soda. There was a ton of water, juices like apple and orange, and milk. One thing that really surprised me was the fact that they had an ice cream machine. The soldier giving the tour said it's rarely on and is used as an incentive for the soldiers. I sat down at a long table like the ones they have in high school cafeterias and tried the food. It was pretty delicious. I got noodles and mashed potatoes, which are two of my favorite foods. If I had to compare it, I'd compare it to college food; but, it is way better than what was served at my high school. To get an idea of what the food looked like, here is a picture of what I chose to eat:

Next I got to see the soldiers workout and train. Most of the time the soldiers use the fitness facility to workout. When they are actually training and preparing they use different obstacle courses and rope courses. The one course I got to witness them practice on consisted of ropes extended high in the air with a mat underneath in case they fell. The soldiers had to walk and crawl across the ropes to the other side. Then they had to take some rope and create a rope seat, which they would sit in and use to propel down the side of a wall on the course. This course was teaching the soldiers to trust in themselves and get over their fears. The course would not have been good for someone afraid of heights, but soldiers do these courses to mentally prepare their minds and to get into shape.

Not only do the soldiers need to be in tip-top shape, but they need to be knowledgeable in how to use the weapons and execute a plan. The first place I went to see how the soldiers perform this is the classroom. Before soldiers go out into the field they must learn in a classroom, that way they are making mistakes that won't actually hurt or affect anyone. It's better to make mistakes in the classroom than out in the field. Some of the classes consist of soldiers sitting and listening to lectures, but they also have classes where they get to do hands on activities. I got to test out some of these classes. In one class I was given a laptop and headphones. Using the computer, I played a game where I was out in a desert and had to learn to drive the army vehicle around. Then I got to visit Monti Hall where students use simulations that make them feel like they are actually in a war overseas. The rooms looked like a set you'd see on stage for a play. They were so intricate, with sand and rocks meticulously littered on the ground. There was a huge screen that displayed a scene that looked like a sandy desert; there were planes flying around. On the ground was a military duffel bag and a phone. I got the chance to use the firing simulator. I learned phrases that I had to say over the telephone to tell the soldiers in the helicopters what to bomb. Once I said the phrases, the person in the back of the room, whom I was talking to, would drop bombs onto the enemies, which I'd be able to see on the screen in front of me. There was a lot of military jargon I had to use. I realized just how important it was to do these simulations, so that soldiers know exactly what to say so that something doesn't accidentally get destroyed or that the plan isn't executed too early.

Once I was done with the simulator, I headed over to the firing range to put what I had practiced into action. I had to wear a hard helmet and camo protective gear for safety. I also had to wear earplugs because the guns were so loud. Here's a photo of it. The gear looks way to big on me.

I got to see the military firing plans put into place. I watched as the soldiers practiced what to do if there was an enemy that they had to fight against. One soldier was on the phone just as I had been, yelling off a bunch of military jargon as the other soldiers hurried around the tent that housed them, their equipment, and their huge gun. Then one soldier would yell fire and I'd jump a little as the loud sound startled me. I don't know how they get comfortable with that sound. Then one of the soldiers asked if anyone wanted to try shooting their 105 mm Howitzer gun. Seeing as this would probably be my only opportunity to ever do anything like this I immediately volunteered. To shoot the gun I had to actually sit on it and pull back a lever when one of the soldiers said fire. When I pulled the lever back, I felt the whole gun shake as a huge boom blasted into my ears and past the ear plugs. What an adrenaline rush! Here's a picture of me before firing the Howitzer to get an idea of how big the gun was. The ammo was huge. Here's a picture of one of the soldiers holding it.

The hands-on in-depth tour I got at Fort Sill was amazing. There were many misconceptions about the army that I found to be false such as the percentage of people who qualify to join and the food quality. I talked with many soldiers and learned why they joined the army. Many joined because their father or grandfather had and they wanted to serve their country as well. I recommend that anyone who has the opportunity to tour an army base do so. It is such a unique experience and is something that can't completely be explained until you see it for yourself. It will make you appreciate even more the service our soldiers provide, to fight for a home as wonderful as the United States.

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.

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