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Inside look: Tours give community, schools glimpse into daily operations

Clemmie Wilson, Totalis Consulting Group, Project Manager TADSS, explains how to operate a weapon to Katee Brown during a tour. (Photo by Jay Mann)

Clemmie Wilson, Totalis Consulting Group, Project Manager TADSS, explains how to operate a weapon to Katee Brown during a tour. (Photo by Jay Mann)

Published: February 25, 2016

FORT RUCKER, Ala. (Feb. 25, 2016) -- “Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn,” is an idea by philosopher Xun Kuang, and a thought driving the Fort Rucker’s tour program managed out of the public affairs office.

“Tours of Fort Rucker give community groups a hands-on look at what Soldiers do here on a daily basis,” said Jay Mann, community relations chief. “Visitors on a tour might attend a class on night vision, watch Soldiers escape from a helicopter underwater, talk with a Soldier about what they do, learn about the science behind Army Aviation, or experience firing weapons on a range.

“We have already done five tours in the first two months this year and have another four being scheduled – 2016 is off to a good start,” said Mann.

“We put together tours based on the group, the time we have with them, and the availability of training sites and stops here on post,” he said. “Of course, we never want to interfere with training our Soldiers.”

And the staffs at the stops common to most tours of the post understand the importance of the tour program, including the Night Vision Devices Branch.

“We’re honored to share our mission with tour groups, whether they are community and business leaders, youth leaders, JROTC (cadets), or military veterans,” said CW4 Keith Barker,  Night Vision Devices Branch chief. “The branch hosts these tours to increase community knowledge, support and cooperation among the local communities. It’s a blessing to be able to share our capabilities and vision with the tour groups.”

Every tour is different, just like every group that visits post is different, Mann said.

“We have a lot to show people and a limited time to do it, so each tour is designed to show people what they are most interested in,” he said. “The visitors’ excitement feeds the training site staff and they return the energy. It is really great.”

But community relations tours aren’t just about fun – there is a purpose to the tour stops, Mann said.

“We bring groups onto post to show them what it is like to be a Soldier in today’s Army,” he said. “Because a lot of our Soldiers are in Aviation, we have a lot of Aviation-related training that people can experience. But, underneath it all, a Soldier is still a Soldier, so we show them what that is like, too.”

The stops on the tours are chosen because they give visitors a taste of what goes on at Fort Rucker on a daily basis and also involve them, Mann said.

“I hope that visitors to Fort Rucker learn that Soldiers are trained well and are prepared for their mission, wherever and whatever it may be,” said Vickie Flowers, training support officer on Fort Rucker. “I hope they leave with a better understanding of the Soldiers’ physical and mental preparedness for their tasks.”

“Our visitors are usually enthralled with the top quality, state-of-the-art training that our Soldiers are going through,” said Barker, “We believe that our visitors leave their tour here with a bit more respect for our Soldiers and for Fort Rucker.”

The program continuously evolves – with improving the experience for visitors and the payoff for the Army being the primary considerations, Mann added.

“We never stop looking for new tour stops to take groups to,” said Mann. “Every time I visit a building on post, I ask the first person I see what they do there. There are a lot of really interesting things happening on Fort Rucker, but unless they work there, most people may not know about them.

“Everybody has a story and what folks are doing here is amazing,” he said. “It is great to facilitate letting them show off their skills. Leading these tour groups, I have learned a lot about how today’s Soldiers are trained, but I always learn something new with each tour group.”

People in organizations that have not been featured as a tour stop or have not had a tour visit lately and are interested in doing so can call community relations at 255-2474.

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