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Putting theory into perspective

A contingent from the National War College in Washington learned what it’s like to be Soldiers during a three-day visit to Fort Benning last week.

Seventeen students — consisting mostly of joint and interagency senior civilian leaders across the Department of Defense and U.S. government — strapped on body armor and helmets Friday for a 75th Ranger Regiment capabilities demonstration at Booker and Duke ranges. The group included an Army colonel and two Navy officers.

“This was a coordinated opportunity for them to experience a day in the life of a U.S. Army Soldier at Fort Benning, as well as gain an appreciation for the operational and strategic value of the 75th Ranger Regiment,” said Lt. Col. Jay Bartholomees, the regiment’s executive officer. “It’s similar to what we allow our family members to take part in during family days. We encourage visitation of our planned training events to showcase how the 75th Ranger Regiment prepares for continuous combat in Afghanistan.”

On Friday, the National War College students also caught the Rangers in Action at Hurley Hill and Victory Pond, visited the 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team on Kelley Hill and met Soldiers at 1st Battalion (Airborne), 507th Parachute Infantry Regiment. They observed a 192nd Infantry Brigade buddy-team live fire basic training event the following day before touring the National Infantry Museum.

At Booker Range, a team of Rangers entered the shoot house with the group watching from the catwalk above. Simulated explosives triggered loud bangs and flashes as the Rangers showed how they clear rooms and buildings.

Col. Andrew Rohling, a student, said he attended Ranger School in the early 1990s.

“This is a chance for me to see a weapon again instead of a desk,” he said.

The students rode two Stryker Infantry Carrier Vehicles to Duke Range for a breaching demonstration. Soldiers in Phase 2 of Ranger Assessment and Selection Program 1 were blowing out doors using different explosives and techniques.Afterward, several students got to practice busting through doors with a hand-held battering ram.

Rohling said the Fort Benning trip’s main purpose was to help the students — many of whom deal with policy issues — gain more insight into the Army’s mission.

“They don’t have much experience with what Soldiers do on a daily basis. This is our opportunity to come see what the Army does,” he said. “Most of these folks are from agencies that don’t really know anything about the military. The intent is for some of them to walk away with a better understanding of what happens when someone says we’re sending in the Rangers or an Army brigade is moving in.

“This puts a face to the theoretical discussions we have.”