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Training our citizen soldiers

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The Maine Regional Training Institute

BANGOR There's a new training space for Maine's National Guard tucked away on Hildreth Street. Many wouldn't even know that a new 105,849 square-foot state-of-the-art facility even exists. But it does, and members of the National Guard from across the country are making use of the training offered there.

Officially called the 240th Regiment Regional Training Institute (RTI), it is the primary military training site for military personnel in the state. And they don't use the term 'state of the art' lightly. The campus offers something called 'flexible training space,' which allows the classrooms to be adapted to suit various applications.

The educational building's configurable classroom space can be used as a 3,780 square foot combined classroom or partitioned off into three separate classrooms for smaller groups (each with overhead audio-visual displays and built-in speakers. The projectors can either be synchronized, so all the screens are displaying the same presentation or they can be operated independently. There is a distance-learning center which can connect to any National Guard computer in the world.

'There is a full range of courses - engineering, carpentry, masonry - for the enlisted soldier,' said Lt. Colonel Brian Veneziano, commander of the Maine RTI. 'We have small group instructor training courses, [an] office candidate course, we host mobile training teams. If the Army has a course, we will host it here.'

The facility is open to all branches of military service as well as the Department of Defense civilians.

The 144-seat auditorium is the centerpiece of the facility, including a high definition screen and projector, high def video camera system, audio system with wired and wireless microphone capabilities, surround sound and wireless hearing assistance for the hearing impaired.

But the flexibility doesn't end there: There is the primary training area multi-purpose room. The floors are deliberately left unfinished to accommodate the wide variety training offered (vehicle maintenance, construction and masonry or traditional classroom space). There are all the necessary data port hookups to create a fully-functional classroom environment, a space that previously was used to construct sheds from scratch.

Master Staff Sergeant Anthony Romano is currently teaching construction to a group of Army National Guard soldiers from Maine and around the country. His class is taught in two parts: classroom learning and practical application (building things). Romano tries to create a rich learning environment by creating displays in the classroom, using many items from local lumber companies.

'I take someone who is not an engineer and make them a viable contributor or participant of the team,' he said. 'They will be able to contribute and help out.'

He notes that the skills taught here are not only applicable to soldiers in the field, but also for civilian life at home everything from building garden sheds, laying foundation for a garage or constructing your child's play house.

And the students come from a mix of backgrounds. Some have experience with construction or masonry, but some come in as a blank slate.

Private First Class Merica Berry is learning the trade from scratch. In her civilian life, she worked as a debt collector. Construction is a completely new trade for her, but one she is embracing.

'I had no experience with this,' she said. 'It's a fast-paced course, but you get one-on-one with the instructors, plenty of materials and supplies and everything is broken down. If I can understand it, anyone can.'

For those training to become medics, there is a dedicated medical training room complete with an exam table, sink, counter space and equipment. One of the most incredible pieces of equipment is the iSTAN medical simulator 'dummy.' This 'dummy' can simulate an incredible array of disorders, react to medicine that is administered, blink, breathe, bleed and more.

Sgt. First Class Ernest Aguilar teaches an intensive five-day refresher course for Army medics. After the course, the soldiers have also met all the requirements for getting recertified in emergency medical training for the State of Maine.

'These are perishable skills,' said Aguilar. '[This course] is applicable to a civilian, because [when it's completed] you have your EMT license.'

These trainings can take place over a couple of hours, or require weeks to complete. The campus can house up to 99 soldiers in the three dorms (or billets). There is also a fully-kitted cafeteria which will be staffed after October.

The entire facility is compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act and utilizes the latest green technology, including geothermal heat, solar arrays and automated lighting.


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