There were horseshoes, saddles and boots made on the spot in workshops at the 1st Cavalry Horse Detachment, a briefing at III Corps and Fort Hood headquarters about the history and vastness of the largest Army installation in the world and a tour of the First Cavalry Museum during the Harker Heights Chamber of Commerce Vision XXI field trip May 2.

The class also ate lunch at Theodore Roosevelt Hall and visited one-on-one with soldiers, the high-tech Striker Mobile Gun System and Infantry Carrier Vehicle at the Motor Pool, and the Warrior Skills Training facility.

The field trip — the class of 2014’s second — showed what it’s like to be a soldier.

Jim DePreist, who served for in the Army for 34 years, led the briefing and pointed out that the on-post population of Fort Hood is 78,811.

“In all the years of my military service, I’ve never seen the local support of a military installation as is received by Fort Hood from the surrounding communities,” DePreist said.

Jerica Millan had never been on an up-close tour of Fort Hood.

“I had no idea it was this big and there was so much going on in here,” she said.

A majority of the Vision XXI class either served in the military or consider themselves military brats. One class member who does not have a military background is Jayson Lam.

“I’ve not had an opportunity to come out and tour Fort Hood,” he said. “It was neat to see the infrastructure, and all the training that goes on behind the scenes.”

The class indicated the favorite activity of the day was a stop at the training facilities, which house computerized tactical weapons and mock-ups of military vehicles such as the machine-gun-mounted Humvee.

Some training rooms are designed with projection equipment that produces a 360-degree view of landscapes on large screens that can be altered by technicians.

Several class members became soldiers-in-training by driving mock vehicles and engaging the enemy in realistic scenarios using M-16 rifles.

“It was awesome,” said class member Casey Brazzil after firing a large weapon. “Wish I could do it all the time.”

Steven Rinehart said simulator training has come a long way since he retired from the military 15 years ago.

“The training is so realistic now and that makes us feel better knowing soldiers are better trained to protect themselves and get back home,” he said.

Gina Pence, CEO and president of the chamber, said many in the class had no idea what soldiers do on a daily basis. “To see them just get a taste of what is happening at Fort Hood was exciting,” she said.

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