Army civilians conquer unique challenges

Greening Course provides insight into Soldiers’ experiences

U.S. Army Research Laboratory civilians maneuver through a river crossing team-building exercise during the organization’s 2017 Greening Course, which introduces Department of the Army civilians to Soldier activities and duties, at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland. | U.S. Army photo by Jhi Scott, ARL

Twenty-three U.S Army Research Laboratory civilians recently completed the U.S. 2017 iteration of the Greening Course—a one week boot camp of sorts to introduce Department of the Army civilian personnel to the Soldier’s perspective.

The course, led by ARL noncommissioned officers, familiarized the civilians with the types of duties and activities experienced by Soldiers in their daily lives. Volunteer participants from various directorates within the laboratory signed up for the course to get a glimpse into Army life outside of the lab.

An ARL civilian Greening Course participant conquers the 30-foot rappel wall during the 2017 U.S. Army Research Laboratory Greening Course at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland. | U.S. Army photo by Jhi Scott, ARL

On day one, students rose early to participate in physical training, commonly known as PT, and gained basic Army knowledge about marksmanship, land navigation and how to assemble and disassemble an M-4 carbine, a lighter variant service rifle that replaced the larger standard-issue M-16.

ARL Master Sgt. Richard Socia said the course is an overall introduction to a Soldier’s perspective.

“I hope when they go out and do their research that they keeps the Soldier in mind,” Socia said. “The reason we have them wear body armor is so they will start thinking about the weight. When they start carrying it around for four or five days, they have a better understanding. It helps give them a realistic view about what Soldiers go through.”

Socia’s advice to the ARL workforce is to sign up for the next Greening Course.

“It is an opportunity to learn from Soldiers; we can provide them with insight,” he said. It’s also an opportunity to connect with people from other organizations – anything that can help the research.”

This year’s course was modified to include paintball weaponry and one of the week’s most intimidating activities – a 30 foot rappelling tower.

Rappelling towers are used in training and designed to ensure service men and women are adequately prepared for all types of scenarios. Greening Course participants who made it to the top of the 30-foot tower had to overcome fear while embracing trust – not only in their equipment but also in the one person assigned to assist them down over the edge of the tower.

ARL civilian Greening Course participants practice marksmanship techniques during the 2017 U.S. Army Research Laboratory Greening Course at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland. | U.S. Army photo by Jhi Scott, ARL

Sgt. 1st Class Bobby Martin supervised the tower drills and played a significant role in keeping hesitant participants relaxed throughout the exercises.

“The real idea is to help them confront and conquer fears, boost self-confidence and build esprit de corps. The additional benefits are two-fold. From a military aspect, it gives us an opportunity to show others what we do every day. For the civilian scientists and engineers who design the gear that we wear and use in the field, it gives them the opportunity to use some of the equipment they helped design.

Martin hopes to see further modifications in future greening courses that would include live fire range activities, overnight field exercises and sleeping under the stars.

“We don’t want to keep people away from their jobs for more than a week. If we could give civilians a full crash course of all the activities we do, that could possibly provide a different aspect to the course,” Martin said.

Priya Narayanan, a mechanical engineer in ARL’s Signal and Image Processing Division, participated in the Greening Course and was selected to as the platoon sergeant for the week long course. Narayanan discussed what she enjoyed most about the overall experience.

“The activities, meeting new civilian and military personnel, challenging myself physically…I enjoyed it all,” Narayanan said. “Working at ARL, the final end user is always the Army Soldier.

“For many of us, this was probably the first opportunity we had got to interact closely with military personnel and understand their work environment. We now have a personal perspective about the challenges faced by a Soldier, some of which are not apparent from watching news reports. I am hopeful that this course will have a very positive influence on our work at ARL,” Narayanan added.

By the time the course was over, graduating students acquired more than a certificate of completion; they gained insight to some of the key tenets of today’s Army and an understanding of what it takes to be a Soldier.

The next course is scheduled to take place in September.

By Tracie Dean, Army Research Laboratory

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