Pentagon tour

Touring the Pentagon and the FBI

Written by Aubrey Neal

Yesterday we had our first Educational Experience Trip as part of the Washington Hillsdale Internship Program, and today, I am still recovering. As part of the program, we are required to go on a number of trips and attend a handful of lectures in addition to going to classes and working at our internships. Although this sounds like just one more thing added to the list, these fieldtrips are anything but a nuisance. DC, as a whole, is a relatively open city when it comes to touring buildings and seeing different sights as an individual. There are, however, a number of places that require special connections to gain access, and WHIP students are grandfathered into those special relationships that the college has with certain individuals and organizations.

Yesterday was our first taste of being insiders as we gained access to tour both the Pentagon and the FBI headquarters. Both were absolutely incredible experiences.

The Pentagon is awe inspiring. Walking into it, you feel as though you are entering a mall. Food courts, a first class gym, escalators around every corner, multiple floors, and windows everywhere make you doubt that you are actually in the headquarters of the Department of Defense. Young service men and women from all branches of the military lead the tours. During the tour, which covers over a mile and a half around the building, they walk backwards like experts, endlessly engaging the group with trivia and fun facts. With halls dedicated to the major achievements of each branch, I wanted to stay there for hours reading about all the incredible military history forever exhibited on those walls. The most interesting part of the tour, though, was the September 11th Memorial Room dedicated to the 184 Pentagon workers and civilians who died at that site. It was a huge educational awakening to learn about that specific attack which, in retrospect, has been overshadowed by the Twin Towers. In the days following the plane’s impact, the pictures released to the press were chosen specifically to downplay the true amount of destruction at the Pentagon, of which 20% had been destroyed. Hearing about those victims—about how the building stayed open and people continued working despite the flames burning down the hall—brought a new level of appreciation to what the individuals in that building do every day.

Following the Pentagon tour our group headed to the FBI headquarters, where we were given a private tour of their museum and shooting range. Filling almost the entire second floor of the massive federal building, the museum has artifacts from nearly all of the most famous criminal investigations of all time. This underutilized museum, no longer offering public tours, is the ultimate dream of little boys everywhere; it holds everything from the first miniature video camera to the car that the hijackers of 9-11 drove to the airport. The FBI’s collectibles were paired with enough good-guy-beating-the-bad-guy stories to fill a book the size of the Western Heritage Reader. It was amazing to hear the FBI’s history and their involvement in nearly every aspect of criminal history to date. Having the ability to gain access and hear about the Bureau’s past from an agent was a once in a lifetime experience that Hillsdale made possible for us.

Our next trip is this following week: an outing to the Shakespeare Theater to see Richard III. Coming from a small town in the countryside, I cannot wait to see a Shakespearean play performed professionally. All I can say is, like everything else, Hillsdale has found a way to make something as childish as a fieldtrip into an incredible educational experience. You may think that they are just for fun, but you walk away having learned way more than you thought you could have.

Aubrey Neal is a junior at Hillsdale College, majoring in Political Economy. She is currently a participant in the Washington-Hillsdale Internship Program, interning in the public policy department at FreedomWorks. Originally from the mountains of Northern Idaho, Aubrey is excited to share her numerous new experiences and opportunities from the capitol with Hillsdale and its supporters.