Posted by: tampachamber on Thursday, February 14, 2019

IMG_4391 By: Nicole Justice, Tampa General Hospital Tampa’s "Skies are Filled with the Nation's First Line of Defense"(1).  This is because every 2.8 minutes, an Air Mobility Command aircraft departs worldwide (2) and Tampa is home to the prestigious MacDill Air Force Base.  For the 2019 Leadership Tampa Class, February 6, 2019, marked Military day; a day in which we stood ready to experience this national treasure. The morning started with a bus tour of the impressive MacDill AFB grounds, moderated by Day Chair Lieutenant Colonel John Schwartz and program day committee member Colonel Emily Farkas.  Not named MacDill until 1941, the base opened in 1939.  Today it sports 5600 acres with 7.1 miles of shoreline and is considered a medium size base.  The base is home to approximately 5000 residents, 24 KC-135s, 3 C-37s, 33 unique missions and two of our nation's nine 4-Star Generals.  MacDill houses $8 billion in assets and contributes more than $4.1 billion to Tampa Bay’s economy (3).  Equally impressive are the amenities available on base.  Offering everything from basic needs to leisure, life at MacDill includes an onsite clinic and commissary, first-class fitness center, golf course, skeet range, bowling alley, family campground, and a beach.  It shouldn't be surprising that nestled in the heart of South Tampa, the homes on base are nearly as beautiful as the views. After the bus tour, we settled in for a MacDill 101 course, where we learned more acronyms than there are letters in the alphabet (e.g. USSOCOM, COCOM, CENTCOM, BLUF, USCENTCOM).  We learned about the difference between officers and enlisted, as well as reservists and active duty.  The speakers were knowledgeable and engaging and being in the heart of SOCOM, it seemed fitting that information and stats emanated from our presenters.  While the stats are impressive, what is truly extraordinary are the people behind them. It was during the Deployment Activity where we began to understand the people at the heart of MacDill.  During the activity, our class was tasked to prepare for a hypothetical deployment with only a 24-hour notice.  Some preparations were obvious, such as bills and finances.  Others were more difficult.  Admittingly, none of us thought of consulting with teachers to explain why our child's behavior may change at school.  Lastly, the reality of service was made evident by the need to ensure that our will and testaments were up to date.  Those leading the activity were sincere and authentic, sharing the various experiences they have witnessed and lived.  For many, the insight brought new gravity to the sentiment, "Thank you for your service". After this activity, we engaged in a discussion with Colonel Bill Salinger titled, "What is the Value Proposition of Special Operations in the Community?".  During which, we learned the core attributes of the highly specialized and seasoned leaders in this space.  Later, Dr. Dora Mays and Technical Sergeant Tristian Traore enlightened us about how the military supports its members through various programs such as deployment preparation, bundles of babies, casualty assistance, and transition (out of the military) assistance.  Sandwiched between sessions, we toured the flight line, boarded a KC-135 and indulged in a few photos.  Afterward, Colonel Douglas Stouffer enthusiastically taught us about managing the fleet of KC-135s and KC-37s. Undoubtedly, the most touching part of the day was the panel discussion with Air Force, Army & Navy Special Operations representatives.  Their names are not listed here, but the class engaged in a candid conversation about their lives in perpetual pursuit of the mission- Parati Defendere (Ready to Defend).  The gentlemen shared how the challenges of frequent deployments have shaped their lives and families; their service hasn’t been without sacrifice.  And while they were open about the challenges, it was evident that their dedication to furthering the mission reigned supreme.  Throughout the day, it was an honor to learn from the men and women at MacDill.  Inarguably, Tampa and our nation are stronger because of them. After MacDill, we visited SOFWERX in Ybor city.  SOFWERX is a Title 15 Organization where, according to Tambrein Bates, innovative ideas are cultivated and accelerated through the collaboration of the brightest minds and divergent thoughts.  To those who are unfamiliar with it, it suffices to say that SOFWERX is doing impressive work to develop unconventional solutions to difficult military challenges.  Imagine a lab that spawns one-man flying machines and submergible watercraft.  It doesn't disappoint.  For the techies reading this, SOFWERX serves as a catalyst for converting ideas into proof of concept, at a high iteration, low-cost rate.  SOFWERX is in a category that is uniquely its own. For the unprecedented access, sincere thanks go out to the following: Commander, 6th Air Mobility Wing - Colonel Stephen Snelson Our Sponsor - Bank of America Our Day Chair - Lieutenant Colonel John Schwartz, United States Air Force Reserve Committee members - Colonel Emily Farkas and Brian Carson Your efforts made our experience memorable, informative and inspiring.  Our class thanks you. Citations:

  1. "MacDill Air Force Base Community Relations Update." MacDill Air Force Base. Building 296 - 927 Air Refueling Wing Headquarters, Tampa. 6 February. 2019. Video.
  2. "Delivering Excellence: MacDill AFB." White Paper. Print.
  3. “MacDill Air Force Base 2017 Economic Impact Statement.” White Paper. Print.