It was an eye-opening experience for Angela Hillesland.
"I have a new respect and appreciation for the life of a soldier," said Hillesland, the public relations manager for Jim Hudson Lexus, who participated in Augustans in Army Boots last week at Fort Gordon.
For 24 hours Aug. 16-17, about 20 professionals traded their dress shoes for Army boots and fatigues and lived the life of soldiers training in the field.
The group spent time patrolling, firing weapons and getting ambushed by snipers. Participants had to care for wounded soldiers and got about three hours of sleep before they rose early Aug. 17 for a graduation ceremony in which they all became honorary second lieutenants.
The group capped its experience by attending the garrison change of command ceremony, where Brig. Gen. Randolph P. Strong, the commanding general, recognized the members.
"I'm sure they all wish they were home in the shower or in their beds," the general said at the 8 a.m. ceremony. "We rousted them at 4 a.m. for a hot breakfast in the field."
The lack of sleep wasn't a problem for some participants.
"It was the sweating," said Matt Aitken, who works at Olin Corp. and does prison ministry.
The Augustans in Army Boots participants wore full uniforms complete with bulletproof vests and helmets.
The program has been around for several years; however, with the war on terrorism, the program took a break. The program began again in February and will likely be held on a regular basis, said Lt. Col. Steve Middleton, the commander of the 56th Signal Battalion.
"We do it when we can include them with our field training," he said.
Participants said it was an experience they won't forget.
"I had a good time," said Robert Thurman, the vice president of Queensborough Bank and Trust. "It was a rewarding experience."
The next Augustans in Army Boots likely will be held in October, Middleton said.
Photo by Annette M. Drowlette
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