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Reconnect!

Vets relive Ft. Jackson memories with Post 195

Posted: September 24, 2010 8:34 a.m.
Updated: September 24, 2010 8:25 a.m.

Tradition. Training. Transformation.

“That’s what we do here,” Maj. Gen. James “Mike” Milano, Fort Jackson’s commander said. He was addressing 65 men from American Legion posts representing various parts of South Carolina, including veterans from Post 195 in Lugoff.

“Because you are all a part of that tradition, we stand on your shoulders today, just as tomorrow’s soldiers will stand on ours,” Milano said.

The military veterans have visited Fort Jackson for a tour once a year for the past four years as a part of a program called “Reconnect,” which allows U.S. military veterans to intermingle with today’s soldiers. The tour includes a variety of field activities, like watching soldiers train, a meal in the dining facility and permission to fire a military M4 rifle in a designated area under supervision of Fort Jackson staff.

“It’s important for us to stay involved,” Bill Neubert, commander of Post 195 said, adding he thought the tours were informative for the men and women involved.

While watching a group of soldiers struggle to complete an obstacle called “river crossing,” Neubert said the point wasn’t for them to complete the task.

“It really isn’t about the obstacle,” he said. “It’s about getting them to communicate and work together as a team.”

During the training, veterans were allowed to talk with drill sergeants and ask questions about the training.

“You may have heard that today’s military standards have dropped, that it’s easier to become a soldier today than it was before,” Lt. Col. Glen Blumhardt said to the vets. “Well I’m here to say that’s a bunch of bologna. If anything it’s harder, and we train smarter than ever before.”

Blumhardt explained that Fort Jackson employes an athletic trainer and a nutritionist to ensure the soldiers are healthy.
“Food is fuel,” he said just before lunch, “and we want our soldiers in the best shape possible.”

He also said Fort Jackson requires all soldiers to carry their weapons 24/7.

“It’s called weapon immersion. Soldiers today get more hands on training with firing a weapon than ever before,” Blumhardt said.

When walking to the dining hall, Neubert smiled and said, “And you know, we wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for Bill Heil. He’s the ball of energy behind this.”

Heil, a former commander of Post 195, now acts as the American Legion liaison with Fort Jackson.

According to Heil, the “Reconnect” visits began shortly after members of the Post began attending the graduations of battalions at Fort Jackson.

“We enjoyed it. The officers enjoyed it. That’s how we began working together,” Heil said.

Heil said he was glad that 15 members of Post 195 were able to make it to the tour. He was even happier when he tallied up the number of Posts represented.

“We had eight posts from all over the state represented, including the state department headquarters,” he said. “The goal is to let veterans keep up with how our military trains. Most of us went through training in the 60s and a lot has changed since then. Plus, everyone enjoys the rifle range. We always have to save that for last because no one wants to leave.”

For more information about Reconnect, or to become involved, contact Heil at 438-8614.

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