July 31, 2015, MARSEILLES, Ill. – Members of Illinois Joining Forces and Illinois communities got a taste of life in uniform July 17, when they participated in “Military Immersion” training at Marseilles Training Center, Marseilles, Illinois.
The participants stayed overnight at MTC and experienced military life, interacted with service members and learned about the military.
They were also shown military equipment, military vehicles and given new insight into how to best help and support service members, veterans, and their families.
”We wanted to give the civilians a chance to actually stay in military barracks and get to do the training that Soldiers go through,” said Lt. Col. Maurice Rochelle of Chatham, Illinois, who is with Joint Force Headquarters based in Springfield, Illinois, Illinois National Guard.
“Normally, training events only allow for observing, but with this one we wanted to give our participants a chance to walk in a Soldier’s boots for the day.”
Twenty-seven civilians in professions ranging from lawyers to health care providers along with Kenneth Barber, executive director of Illinois Joining Forces, Erica Jeffries, director of Illinois Department of Veterans Affairs and Ron Bacci, chair of Employer Support for the Guard and Reserve participated in the two-day event.
“This is the second year we have had a successful event, and it looks like it will continue,” said Rochelle.
Brandon Woodenburg, a student at SIU School of Law and volunteer at the SIU veterans’ rural pro bono initiative, a first timer for immersion training, said he respects veterans even more than he did before because of what he experienced on this trip.
“This visit was very insightful and I was able to get a point of view that a civilian wouldn’t normally get to see,” said Woodenburg. “It was exciting to see a small fraction of what a veteran or active member goes through on a frequent basis.”
Woodenburg said he came on this trip hoping to get more insight on veterans and their lifestyle in order to help them more as a volunteer.
Woodenburg said his favorite part of the trip was being in the platoons, doing cadences and marching.
Sgt. 1st Class Joshua Nickels of Montgomery, Illinois, a training assistant for the Illinois Pre Mobilization Training Assistance Element, took the civilians through an IED training lane and taught them how to use the decision-making process to navigate past obstacles they encountered.”This training exposes the general population to the complexity of the jobs in the Army,” said Nickels. “We want to show the capabilities of our Soldiers to civilians that can make them more marketable for employment purposes.”Nickels said the feedback from the civilians throughout the training was positive.”
This was a great opportunity for us to show them what we do instead of just telling them what we do,” said Nickels. “This is a great event and hopefully we can expand this in the years to come.”