Heidi Wong of Union State Bank experiences the real firing of a military weapon at the Warrior Skills Training Facility on Vision XXI Fort Hood Day.

Bob Massey | Herald

The Vision XXI Leadership Class 2017 sponsored by the Harker Heights Chamber of Commerce and Visitors Center departed the Armed Services YMCA parking lot early on May 4 for their Fort Hood Day visit.

“Fort Hood Day is designed to help the Vision XXI participants understand what soldiers do on a day-to-day basis,” said Mary Sabunia, Vision XXI coordinator. “We use the same weapons the soldiers use, take part in simulation exercises, ride in military vehicles, shoot a machine gun and more importantly interact with soldiers.”

The group began the day with a command briefing then made its way to see a performance by the First Calvary Division Horse Detachment and took a tour of the barn and other facilities.

After lunch, Vision XXI 2017 arrived at the Close Combat Tactical Training facility, and class members got some of same hands-on training that prepares soldiers for the real thing.

They received that same hands-on experience at Warrior Skills Trainer.

The last activity of the day was the demonstration of a military working dog at the post kennel.

Ron Perry, director of the Mission Support Element, told the class members during his briefing at the III Corps and Fort Hood Headquarters that the military installation is the Army’s premier maneuver training facility. The post covers 342 square miles and supports a population of 400,000 people.

Fort Hood has 6,310 buildings and structures equaling 35.6 million square feet of floor space.

Fort Hood partners with 11 cities and two counties.

Perry said, “The post produces an annual economic impact of $35.4 billion and a total industrial impact of $44 billion.

The post is the largest in the Army supporting 99 barracks with more than 15,000 rooms and 5,849 family quarters.

Under the direction of 1st Sgt. Aaron Campanella, the leadership group experienced a horse detachment show, then took a tour that included a demonstration of the weapons used by the riders, the saddle and boot making shop and the historical hall.

At the close combat tactical training building, some of the Vision XXI class chose to pick up weapons and through computer-generated real-life situations entered a small house and exchanged fire with a virtual enemy inside.

Inside the warrior skills trainer facility, class members climbed aboard a military vehicle equipped with a machine-gun turret. Four people filled each vehicle with one of those being the driver.

HHHS student Nairobi Williams said, “We were surrounded by a 360-degree virtual landscape that included enemy soldiers firing at you. My stomach got a little unsettled but it takes you to a new level of adrenaline that you didn’t know you had,” Williams said.

Heidi Wong of Union State Bank, drove one of vehicles and described it as “a wild ride.”

Jay Rosenblum and Jay Ritz served as hosts at the training facilities.

Military dogs play a vital role in warfare, and the working dog demonstration proved the point.

One of the dogs searched and found hidden drugs. Another one worked with a handler and obeyed every command.

The class was astounded when the handler gave the attack signal and the dog jumped on a soldier in protective clothing and sunk his teeth into the soldier’s arm.

The next Vision XXI trip will be Education Day on June 1 led by Amy Bawcom and Dr. James Anderson.

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