Future soldiers visit Joint Base Lewis-McChord
The U.S. Army gave future soldiers from Clark County a look at what life will be like for them, showcasing its equipment and living facilities at Joint Base Lewis-McChord (JBLM).
“It was good to get the opportunity to see it before we do it,” said Zachary Davis, a Hudson’s Bay High School student who is planning to join the Army after he graduates in 2019.
“The base was not what I was expecting,” added Ranger Chiepot, who also plans to enlist. “It was way better. It is its own town.”
The Vancouver Recruiting Company, commanded by Capt. Kenneth Wheeler, was part of a larger group that visited JBLM Tuesday. In all, about 60 potential soldiers from Vancouver, Longview, Portland and Beaverton toured the installation, located south of Tacoma.
Some have already enlisted and are on the delayed entry program. Others are considering a future with the Army. They witnessed presentations from the military police, communications, and engineering.
“I want to be an MP,” Davis said. “That demonstration was really cool, to see the equipment I might be able to work with one day.”
Engineers showed off their vehicles that sweep for bombs, can dig up explosives up and detonate the devices.
Austin Thompson, who attends Fort Vancouver High School, was impressed.
“How high-tech the equipped vehicles are, that is what surprised me,” he said.
The communications team set up satellites to show how soldiers can communicate with anyone in the world.
Chase Martin, who is scheduled to report Aug. 13 for basic training at Fort Benning, GA, said he enjoyed all the presentations but is still committed to his chosen military occupational specialty: 11 X-Ray, infantryman.
The tour at JBLM was not all about how soldiers work, but also how they live. The recruits got a look at a Warrior Zone, a place for single soldiers to unwind with video games, food, and friendship.
Wheeler said surveys have shown that more than 50 percent of teens and young adults in America know very little or nothing about the Army. One recently told Wheeler the only thing he knew about the military was from the movie Full Metal Jacket, a film released in 1987 that dealt with the Vietnam era.
Wheeler and all recruiters can assure people that the military is very different now. The tours help with that mission.
“It’s good to be able to bring people up to Joint Base Lewis-McChord and see the actual Army, to be able to see what the Army is about,” Wheeler said.
William Byman, 20, said the tour gave him an up-close look at soldiers performing their mission, describing the Army “an honorable profession.”
“They gave us free liberty to ask any questions we had,” Byman said. “That was very helpful.”
While this week’s visit did not include a stop at the barracks, Davis said he saw the barracks on a previous tour.
“They are more like college dorms now,” he said, noting it is nothing like what is depicted in the movies.
Capt. Wheeler said it is important for the Army to provide a quality life besides the training, beyond the mission.
“The soldier is a valuable asset,” Wheeler said. “They have increased the living standard of the American soldier.”
Martin is less than two months away from beginning his life as a soldier.
“I wanted to give back to my country. I wanted something good to do in my life,” Martin said. “I like a challenge.”
Earlier this week, he and his colleagues got the chance to see what it is like for the people who have already accepted that challenge.