Military Day gives leaders access to Fort Gordon
Participants were members of Leadership Augusta, an Augusta Metro Chamber of Commerce affiliate created to “enhance the civic participation of emerging leaders within the region,” as cited on its website.
Col. Todd Turner, Fort Gordon Garrison commander, said Military Day was an opportunity to increase community understanding of Fort Gordon to include its mission and importance of mutual support.
“Two of the most important things we do are teambuilding and community events,” Turner said. “This is one of those important engagements that we can leverage both Richmond and Columbia Counties’ current and future leaders.”
The group began its day with breakfast and presentations at Olmstead Hall. Turner gave an overview of Fort Gordon, and a member of the Cyber Center of Excellence spoke about the meaning of “Army cyber.”
Following presentations, the group was split in two and each person assigned a battle buddy. Half of the group departed on bus to the Engagement Skills Trainer and Humvee Egress Assistance Trainer where they tested their firing skills and experienced what it’s like to be in a Humvee rollover. The other group stayed behind for a presentation by Fort Gordon’s Installation Support Detachment, which included an explanation of military funeral honors and a flag folding demonstration.
“The honors detail was important to show that we have a commitment to those who have served and have fallen,” Turner said. “That’s part of our culture, our heritage, and you don’t necessarily see that in other career fields.”
Participants then boarded a bus for an hour-long windshield tour of Fort Gordon. The tour was intended to give leaders an overview of the city while exposing them to amenities they have access to.
Leaders also looked at the future cyber campus site along with new and ongoing construction in support of U.S. Army Cyber Center of Excellence.
Both groups reconvened for a meeting with dog handlers and military working dogs assigned to 222nd Military Working Detachment. Service members talked about their roles as dog handlers then demonstrated what the MWD could do. Leaders watched from behind a secured fence as an MWD searched for hidden narcotics and subsequently subdued Turner, who was dressed in a training suit and played suspect. Following the demos, leaders dined on Meals Ready to Eat at Gordon Lakes Golf Club. It was one of the day’s many highlights for Scot Seabolt, who deemed his chicken and noodles MRE “outstanding.” Seabolt, director of Revenue, WJBF News Channel 6, said the event gave him a better sense of what a Soldier’s life is like.
“You honor them because of what they do for the country, but you never really get a sense of the things they do day to day,” said Seabolt. “Being out here and hearing it firsthand, experiencing an MRE … where else am I going to do that?”
For Jay Markwalter, Augusta Convention and Visitor Bureau’s director of Sales, the windshield tour was an eye opener.
“Fort Gordon is its own city out here,” Markwalter said. “I kind of knew that, but not to the level of detail and how by 2028, it will be a very, very modern campus and pretty incredible little city out here.”
Although the installation is its “own city” with a bright future, it can’t succeed on its own. Turner emphasized a need to continue strengthening and building new partnerships with surrounding community leaders.
“I want them to understand the change in the mission on Fort Gordon, the transformation and growth on where we’re going and what their piece of that will be out in the local community, and lastly, that none of us will be able to accomplish this vision of the cyber district over the next 10 years by ourselves,” Turner said. “It’s not only Fort Gordon’s transformation; it’s the entire region.”
It’s something he hopes to accomplish in part by bringing them on the installation more often. Those who wish to support the installation by using its programs and services may do so with a 12-month pass. Individuals must have a government sponsor and undergo a full background check prior to receiving a pass.
“I want them to use our facilities, because that income will enable us to maintain more services, more programs, and more recreational activities then if we only serviced our own population,” Turner explained.
James Heffner enjoys having access. Heffner, Leadership Augusta board member and vice president of State Bank and Trust, frequents the bowling alley with family and attends post-wide events.
“It’s nice to be able to meet new people who are from all over the place … we’re all one big community,” Heffner said.
“I don’t want the gate to be where the local community stops,” Turner added. “It’s going to take both sides to ensure success.”
After lunch, the groups swapped positions and finished their day with a wrap-discussion.