Retired US Army Captain Tom Byrd talked to us this week about his time in the Army and the Come Meet Your Army Tour that is taking place September 20. Byrd is currently serving as the Community Relations Officer for Fort Jackson and is part of the team that is bringing us that event.

Byrd has just over 28 years of service in the Army.

“I enlisted back in 1986 and then retired as a Captain, I received my commission in 2007 and retired in 2015,” he said. Byrd retired as a Public Affairs Officer (PAO) but he had a lot of experience in the public affairs arena as an enlisted Soldier as well.

“Combat Camera and Broadcast, and I was also in the Infantry and was a Topographic Surveyor,” said Byrd. Like many in uniform, he traveled all around the world and performed a variety of duties that ultimately led him to his current position. “Becoming a Public Affairs Officer was perfect for me, because I knew what the Army did.” said Byrd.

Knowing what the Army does also makes Tom Byrd a perfect fit for the Come Meet Your Army Tour. When asked about the tour, he had this to say: “We try to put on the Come Meet Your Army Tours so that members of the Columbia community and the Midlands in general can come on and see what we do on the installation. Brigadier General Beagle has said many times since taking command in June, ‘We are the American People’s Army.’ Fort Jackson belongs to the community and we want people to come on to the installation and see what we do, we’re very proud of what we do.”

With Fort Jackson being the largest training installation in the United States, the interest in what happens there is high. Tom Byrd has a unique perspective that makes him exceptionally qualified for this event.

“I was a drill instructor at Ft. Jackson,” Byrd said. “What we do at Ft. Jackson, primarily, is we train basic combat training. All the Soldiers that come into the Army, the enlisted Soldiers, go through Basic Combat Training (BCT). Over half of these Soldiers come through Ft. Jackson.”

There are several other training facilities around the country but Ft. Jackson trains the vast majority of those soldiers, so when they decided to host a Come Meet Your Army Tour they turned the focus onto what a soldier goes through during basic training.

“What we do there and what they’ll get to see is we’ll pick them up at 7:00 at the gate, we’ll bring them over to the 120th Reception Battalion where they’ll get to see what it’s like when an individual comes off the bus with their long hair, and still wearing civilian clothes, and the process they go through for that initial indoctrination in the Army,” said Byrd.

From there, the visitors will go to a common briefing with the Deputy Commanding Officer, after which they will have the opportunity to see a BCT graduation.

“You get to see the first day and the last day of their time on Ft. Jackson in the course of about three hours,” he said. “They’ll get to see how proud the families are and how proud those soldiers themselves are for making it to that point.”

There’s a lot more going on that day, including a barracks tour, the opportunity to eat some Army chow and a great opportunity to tour the Basic Training Museum – but to hear about these in more detail you’re going to have to tune in to the Soldier Salute this week!

Categories: Columbia, Military, Richland County

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