Soldier-led "Greening Course" is an adventure for Army Civilians

February 18, 2014

Story Highlights

  • Researcher get hands-on experience with many day-to-day activities and challenges that Army Soldiers undertake
  • Course gives insight toward developing future materials and technologies to support the Warfighter toward accomplishment of their mission
  • Most useful outcome of the course was the informal communications between the researchers and the NCOs

Twenty-five civilians from the U.S. Army Research Laboratory participated in what turned out to be "one of the best" greening courses the organization has planned and executed. The event took place at Aberdeen Proving Ground on Jan. 27–31.

Under the leadership of Sgt. Major Christopher Harris, the five day course was coordinated by Sgt. 1st Class Michelle Williams, who is relatively new to the organization. Williams is stationed at the Adelphi Laboratory Center and works in the Computational and Information Sciences Directorate.

"This experience really opened my eyes. I have only been assigned to ARL since July and I'm still very lost when it comes to the research lab. The section where I work at is small and I don't get the opportunity to interact with a lot of the scientists and engineers," said Williams. "There are so many advances being made at ARL and listening to the participants speak about their work can become almost an intimate conversation. They are so dedicated to their research and I can tell they take pride in what they do and really want to find ways to benefit the Warfighter."

The participants came from as far away as Florida and North Carolina to endure the frigid temperatures this year's course experienced. The course began with an introduction to the military, followed by basic rifle marksmanship, lots of physical training, a heat and rollover drill, room clearing, vehicle rides at the U.S. Army Test Center, M14 rifle shooting simulators, aviation orientation by the Maryland Army National Guard and a UH 60 Blackhawk helicopter ride, ending with a formal graduation ceremony.

Each participant was asked to share something about their experiences and what they liked most. Let's hear what some of the participants had to say.

David Doria, Computational and Information Sciences Directorate
"The greening course was an excellent opportunity for me as a researcher to get hands-on experience with some of the many day-to-day activities and challenges that Army Soldiers undertake. In the classroom, talking to the NCOs (non commissioned officers) and hearing their stories made many things that I work on and think about in the lab seem very relevant and real. In the field we were exposed to many tasks, including driving an Abrams tank! It doesn't get much cooler than that – hooah!"

Matthew Munson, Vehicle Technology Directorate
"This week gave me a glimpse into the world in which a Solider lives. In addition to the sheer enjoyment of the activities like driving an Abrams and lifting off in a Blackhawk, I was able to spend significant time conversing with the NCOs. As they told stories about their experiences, my ears were tuned to the portions of their narrative where technology made the difference (or could have made the difference) in their ability to complete the mission. I will take back to the lab the experiences and the conversations and attempt to utilize them to inform and inspire my daily activities. Sgt. Major Harris, Sgt. 1st Class Williams and the rest of the NCO team are to be commended for a mission accomplished and accomplished well."

Keith Whitaker, Human Research and Engineering Directorate
"The greening course provided a number of opportunities to discuss with SMEs (subject matter experts) how science and technology innovations get integrated with tactical decision making, while providing us with extraordinary opportunities. I've ended most conversations this week with, 'I drove a tank!' My wife is no longer amused."

Lionel Vargas-Gonzalez, Weapons and Materials Research Directorate
"The greening course provided an avenue for us to spend invaluable time with NCOs, gathering insight from their stories and experiences, and the opportunity to become familiar with the Army's ground vehicles and rotorcraft, weapons, equipment and training exercises. Understanding the harsh realities Soldiers have to endure (wearing bulky body armor in the tight confines of a vehicle, interfacing between Soldier and weapons systems, etc.) during their day-to-day scenarios gives us insight toward developing future materials and technologies that will interface more efficiently, unburdening and improving the effectiveness of the Warfighter toward accomplishment of their mission."

Robert Haynes, VTD
"My favorite part of the greening course was the opportunity to interface with the technology deployed in the field. Doing so, gave me a greater appreciation for the needs of the Soldier, which future technology must meet."

Philip Chan, Survivability Lethality Analysis Directorate
Chan summed it up in a few words, "Almost a life changing event!"

Morris Berman, WMRD
"The experiences provided by this year's greening course provided valuable insight into Soldiers' equipment, but the most useful outcome of the course was the informal communications between the researchers and the NCOs."

Joshua Allen, Sensors and Electron Devices Directorate
"I am honored to have participated in the greening course and would highly recommend it to anyone that may be interested in what the daily life of a Soldier entails. My favorite parts of the course were driving the M1A2 Abrams and the Bradley fighting vehicle, as well as having the opportunity to fly in a Blackhawk that performed various evasive maneuvers similar to what a combat pilot would experience in the field.

"This course was one of the most memorable experiences I have ever had and I am deeply grateful for the opportunity. The most memorable part of the course, however, was the daily interactions with the NCOs in which we discussed potential improvements that could to be made to equipment/gear, ideas for future technologies, as well as some humbling 'war stories' that invigorated me to work harder for our Soldiers. I am greatly appreciative of ARL for supporting this program and am glad I was able to participate at this early stage of my career."

Ronald Polcawich, SEDD
"The greening course was absolutely fantastic! Sgt. Major Harris, Sgt. 1st Class Williams and all of the NCOs should be commended for organizing and executing a challenging, educational, and very entertaining greening course. The interaction with the Soldiers was invaluable and something I will also remember. Whether it was eating MREs (meals ready to eat) and swapping stories on a frigid day at the Humvee rollover simulator or standing outside on a 20 degree day awaiting a turn to drive a tank, the enthusiasm for all involved was tremendous.

"As a result of the greening course, I aim to have continued discussions with the sergeant major and the NCOs about the possibility of organizing single day courses on particular Army systems for our scientists and engineers so that they can get more acquainted with these systems with which we are developing technologies to enhance performance, reduce SWaP-C (size, weight, and power, cost), or enable new capabilities."

Renée Etoty, CISD
"I am truly honored to have been given this rewarding experience with Sgt. 1st Class Williams and her NCO team as they shed light on the Army from a Soldier's perspective. I most enjoyed hearing about their personal stories of war, leadership, difficult times, courage and perseverance, as they performed their duties so dearly by the Soldiers creed and Army mission.

"I appreciated the opportunity to interact with the very same tools that the Soldiers use on a regular basis. It was informing to hear them recognize many innovations that started in ARL's research labs and developed into a useful product for them. I was open to spending an entire week with the Soldiers and I enjoyed every activity that was planned for the class.

"The hands on activities really stuck with me and I absolutely loved the Blackhawk helicopter ride! I saw the leader in each of the NCOs that spent time with us and I salute them to a job well done with the greening course. All in all, I have gained a better understanding for the needs of our Soldiers and have a deeper appreciation for their service and commitment to our nation. I will continue to do my part as an Army civilian to aid their success and uphold our Army mission. I enjoyed this greening course and would easily recommend it to my fellow colleagues."

Vishal Bhagwandin, WMRD
"The greening course was both exciting and enlightening. My favorite experiences were the Blackhawk helicopter ride and driving the M1 Abrams tank – opportunities I thought I would never have! It was just as exciting listening to Sgt. Maj. Harris and his team tell of their war experiences and how they depend on the technology we pioneer. The course really bridges the gap between the Army Soldier and the Army civilian. Above all, it was fun!"

Manny Diego, Simulation and Training Technology Center, HRED
"Almost all, if not all who attended the ARL greening course are technocrats and there was a lot to please them – the M14 rifle simulators, the vehicle rollover simulator, the M4 tank and Bradley ride and the Blackhawk ride. But what I think was the best part of the ARL greening course is getting to know Sgt. Major Harris and his NCO team (led by Sgt. 1st Class Williams), listening to the RDECOM Sgt. Major Beharie, listening to Sgt. Major Agueda – these folks spoke of their combat experiences and I think we all heard their messages."

Chris Garneau, HRED
"The greening course was a really rare opportunity to interact with NCOs and check out the equipment that Soldiers use first-hand. There are not too many jobs that let you drive a tank and ride in a helicopter as part of training. The week was very informative and fun!"

Alfred Yu, HRED
"It's hard to pick a single thing that I liked most, because everything was so awesome! All of the equipment, training scenarios and interactions with Soldiers were fantastic. I spent a few days telling everyone, 'I got to drive an M1 Abrams tank! And then I rode in a Blackhawk helicopter!'

"My strongest impression from the course is the Soldiers' intense mission focus. Whether they were teaching us how to field strip an M4 rifle, survive a Humvee rollover, or describing the intricacies of the Army chain of command, they were laser-focused on getting us into their mindset and way of thinking. Despite this intensity, they were also mindful and respectful of our diversity as a group. It makes me realize that this is the level of professionalism that the entire Army community should strive for, whether in the office, laboratory, workshop or battlefield!"

Chakrapani "Pani" Varanasi, U.S. Army Research Office
"My experience with the greening course was excellent, I enjoyed meeting with the 'real' Warfighters and learned a lot during every day of the week."

In addition to the class participants' views, the Soldiers enjoyed their interactions with them as well.

"Everyone was very motivated and appreciative of all the hard work we put into the course. I listened to them speak about the highs and the lows of the job, which brought a common ground to us. I honestly wish I had more time to speak to everyone individually," said Williams. "The NCOs and I had a few laughs because some of the participants reminded us of real Soldiers, which can be very funny. New privates are often late and disoriented and often whine about being hungry or sleepy or in pain so we had a few of those moments, but all in all the participants were great!"

Sgt. 1st Class Williams said that Sgt. Major Harris wanted the civilians to be happy and enjoy the experience so he played a big part in the planning.

"Overall this was a huge team effort and it wouldn't have run this smooth without my team," said Williams. "Staff Sgt. Lockey, Staff Sgt. Wheatley, Staff Sgt. McKnight were a huge help in getting materials and resources such as MREs, protective gear, and securing locations. Sgt. 1st Class Sanchez, Staff Sgt. Ludwig, Staff Sgt. Pike and Staff Sgt. Enos assisted in instructing classes, as well as, Staff Sgt. Lockey and Staff Sgt. Wheatley."

 

Last Update / Reviewed: February 18, 2014