Ever Want to Be a Soldier? Some VIPs Get the Chance for a Day

By Katie Lange
Defense Media Activity

Imagine hopping into a Black Hawk helicopter, suiting up for a raid, shooting some guns and being a soldier for a day without having to actually enlist. That would be pretty cool, right?

Welcome to Fort Irwin! DoD photo by Air Force Airman 1st Class Jose Gonzalez

Some special guests are getting to immerse themselves in that life this weekend at remote Fort Irwin, California. From sun-up to sun-down, actors, heads of talent agencies and leaders from business giants like Lucas Oil and the NFL Network will no longer be themselves – they’ll be privates, learning all there is to know about Army life.

Why Fort Irwin?

Fort Irwin is out in California’s Mojave Desert – a place that could double for Afghanistan or Iraq any day. Because of that, it’s where the National Training Center is located, a place where soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines across the world can get tough, real-life training to hone their warrior skills.

U.S. Army soldiers detonate a claymore during a rotation at the National Training Center in Fort Irwin, Sep. 22, 2017. Army photo by Spc. Joseph DeLuco

Fort Irwin has been doing these VIP tours twice a year for about six years. It’s a way for business leaders and industry giants to get to know the real side of the military – more than what they hear about in the news and see on TV – and find out how veterans can fit back into civilian life after their service.

What the VIPs take away from the experience can often be very different from their assumptions of military life beforehand, and that’s important in helping to bridge the military-civilian divide.

What the VIPs Experience

So what, exactly, will these newly minted “privates” be doing during this day-long mission?

First, they’ll catch a ride on a Black Hawk and get some sweeping views of Los Angeles before dropping down into the desert to get their day started. Who wouldn’t want to do that? The VIP guests will then head to the National Training Center, where they’ll be sworn in as soldiers for the day.

U.S. soldiers and Rockstar Energy Drink Extreme athletes survey the city of Ujen as they prepare to assault their objective at Fort Irwin, California, Oct. 19, 2016, during an immersion experience training scenario. Army photo by Sgt. David Edge

The group will get to watch as a massive fictional town turns into an Arab marketplace for the day. They’ll  check out some sights, sounds and smells that service members might encounter before watching soldiers with the Army’s elite Black Horse Regiment do some training, complete with explosions and casualties.

Next is lunch, when they test out those infamous Meals, Ready to Eat (MREs).

Then the real fun begins. The “privates” will get more hands-on, suiting up in full Army gear, shooting guns and exploring tanks (we’ll be sure to get lots of photos and videos from that!). They’ll also have some serious discussions with military leaders, soldiers and their spouses about what life is really like in the military.

We’ll have full coverage of the immersion experience on the Defense Department’s Twitter, Facebook and Instagram pages, and more details of what happens here on DoDLive.

Some notable VIPs from past experiences include leaders from NBC Universal, singer Jordin Sparks, “Grey’s Anatomy” star Jason George, and “Sons of Anarchy” actor Emilio Rivera. Make sure to check all of our platforms in the next few days to find out who’s taking part this year!

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