LT 2016: Military Day

By Maggie Fowler, Peak 10, Inc.

FowlerPaying attention? – sure. To my own life, to the lives of my family and friends, work, community, politics, and a reality show from time to time.  But today paying attention meant to realize that our normal stroll through life is the result of great sacrifice by others.  LT ’16 – Military Day.

Ed Spenceley (LT ’14), Senior VP of Bank of America opened up our day at 0715 at SOFWERX.  SOFWERX is a new, unclassified Doolittle Institute facility where Government and DoD can collaborate with industry and academia in an innovative environment. Fascinating place. Anyone can walk in off the street with an idea and be able to vet, prototype, and potentially get the DoD as an audience. It’s like a James Bond Q-Lab. But it’s not a secret. It’s a public facing shop. Can you believe a place like this exists in Ybor City? Honestly they want anyone with a great idea to walk through their new storefront doors and solve the challenges of our military today. I am pretty sure I have about two hundred ideas in my head that I think can contribute, how about you?

Next stop, MacDill. We arrived at Building 56 greeted by some of the great men and woman of our United States Air Force. They guided us right out to the tarmac for an up close and personal tour of a KC-135 and C-37A (Gulfstream 5). Wow, both of these airplanes were amazing. The KC-135, a military refueling and transport aircraft, was born in 1963 and it still has another 40 years of service. Capt. Travis Fugler gave us the skinny on the C-37, a plane that he captains for 4-star Generals and guests. No doubt he has a very cool job flying around the world, but his job holds a heavy responsibility transporting our military’s highest ranking personnel to areas of the world including combat zones.

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As we move across the base, to building 256, we are welcomed by Colonel Daniel Tulley and Colonel Randal Bright for a briefing on the impact of MacDill Air Force Base to the Tampa community. Let me sum it up—HUGGGGGGE! This is where my title of this blog becomes reality. Perspective. Let’s start with that MacDill has 18,800 people who work on the base. It’s 1,000 yards from the waters of Tampa Bay. It provides worldwide support to every combatant command. On base it has 572 family homes, 515 airmen dorms, 512 campsites, an elementary school, and a 24-hour gym. MacDill has a Total Force Integration approach that involves having the ability to support the needs of our military. Three different groups make up this approach: Active duty, Active Reserve, and National Guard Reserve.  There were so many facts and figures that the Colonels shared with our group, but one of the most interesting is that MacDill has Air Medical Units that that are integrated with the combat units. Why is this important? As Colonel Bright explained they can be the reason a service man or woman will survive a combat situation. He spoke of this unit with not only fondness but thanks for what they did for his own son after he was wounded in combat.

The LT ’16 class had great questions for the Colonels (as usual) but the best question I had heard that day was asked by Clint Shouppe with Baycare. Clint asked about what we can do as a class of leaders in the Tampa Bay area to support our service men and women. Colonel Tulley responded with “Connect!”

  1. Connect at the unit level
  2. Become an Honorary Commander
  3. Say THANK YOU! Especially to the young service men and women. They need our recognition and encouragement to help them as they navigate their futures.

As we finished up lunch we had a great discussion with a panel of US Special Operations Command (SOCOM) International Officers. The dedication of these officers from Demark, Netherlands, and Lithuania to collaborate with our US military was passionate and unwavering. Perspective……after this discussion, I can’t imagine that any of us will listen to the news the same. The media might be able to sensationalize the situations all over the world with dramatic headlines and videos, but in reality what we hear through the media is skewed towards a political agenda. These guys don’t SKEW. They tell it like it is and from a perspective none of us will be able to comprehend.

On to the top secret building of USCENTCOM. No cell phones, cameras, Fitbits or electronic devices of any kind. Not sure I can say much about this part of the day.  But what I will say is it was way cool and we learned a lot about Islam and the how the geographic Combatant Commands are divided and managed.  USCENTCOM’s mission statement is: “With national and international partners, USCENTCOM promotes cooperation among nations, responds to crises, and deters or defeats state and non-state aggression, and supports development and, when necessary, reconstruction in order to establish the conditions for regional security, stability and prosperity.” Perspective…… All Middle-East military operations are controlled out of the operations center in Tampa, FL. That’s correct people, right in your back yard.

Back on the bus to 4th Assault Amphibian Battalion, a Marine Reservist training center. Captain Eric Benjamin and his staff greeted us, divided us up into groups, and made sure we signed a release waiver before we put our hands on any of the equipment.  First up, the amphibious assault vehicle. Saddle up folks, you need a bullet proof jacket and helmet to ride this ride. To think that soldiers ride in this vehicle for hours in the water before they make it to land. Wow, I just completely disqualified myself and probably 90% of my class from being a Marine Reservist. Next up, target practice and not with hand guns but with rifles and semi-automatic machine guns. Once again, I disqualified myself from being a Marine Reservist. This impressive facility is where our Marine Reservists come one weekend a month and for two weeks in the summer to refresh their skills on the equipment and keep those survival instincts sharp. Then we moved on to the MRE (Meals Ready to Eat) demo. I tried some chilly – surprisingly not bad. To finalize the day and to really put it into perspective, Captain Benjamin helped us realize that although our Reservists have a commitment to our country through their volunteer oath, they are people just like you and I. These brave individuals are generally very early in their adulthood and are looking for their path in life. Whether that be through getting an education or the starting a career, they are looking for their place in our communities.  But many of the Marine Reservists have difficulty obtaining full-time employment and they are asking us to help in that mission to employ, train, and embrace these individuals.  Seems like the least we can do; don’t you think?

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Perspective – a particular attitude toward or way of regarding something; a point of view.

My perspective- Tampa is one of the strongest communities in the world because MacDill Air Force Base and the brave men and women who serve there. Stop what you are doing, walk over, shake their hand and say THANK YOU! God Bless the USA!

P.S. Big old LT thank you to our fantastic Day Chairs: Maj Brian Craft, USAF (LT ’14), Lt Col Erin Schwartz, USAF (LT ’13), and Lt Col John Schwartz, USAF (LT ’15). Thank you for your service to our country and community!

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