Civilian Leaders Wrap Up EuCom Trip With New Respect, Appreciation
By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Sept. 26, 2008 Civilian business, academic and civic leaders returned here today fired up about the operations they observed and servicemembers they met during a weeklong trip through U.S. European Command.
“I come away inspired, very humbled, and enthusiastic myself and incredibly proud to be an American, and I feel a heck of a lot safer at night,” said Brad Howell, founder and CEO of Lodestar Logistics Corporation in Houston.
Howell was among 47 participants in the Joint Civilian Orientation Conference. The group arrived back in Washington, they said, with new appreciation for technology behind U.S. weapons systems, but especially the professionalism and spirit behind the men and women who operate them.
The group was the 76th to participate in JCOC since the first defense secretary, James V. Forrestal, created the JCOC program in 1948 to introduce civilian "movers and shakers" with little or no military exposure to the workings of the armed forces.
The conference started last week with briefings at the Pentagon, with an Air Force C-17 Globemaster III shuttling participants to military sites in Greece, Spain, the United Kingdom and Germany.
The group visited the USS Iwo Jima off the coast of Crete, U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Dallas in Rota, Spain, Air Forces Europe operations at RAF Mildenhall and RAF Lakenheath in the United Kingdom and Special Operations Command Europe and the EuCom headquarters in Stuttgart, Germany.
Participants shared impressions of their experience during a closing dinner last night in Stuttgart, hosted by Army Gen. John Craddock, the EuCom commander.
Terrence Moore, city manager for Las Cruces, N.M., said he was struck by the “tremendous skill, talent, commitment, and enthusiasm that embodies every servicemember we’ve encountered throughout this trip.”
“That’s something that every American should be aware of,” Moore said, adding that he intends to share the message of professionalism he has seen when he returns home.
“Every organization starts and ends with its people,” said Alan Bersin, chairman of the San Diego County Regional Airport Authority. “If we didn’t know it before today – and many of us did – the military at this point in American history represents and embodies the very best human capital in the United States.”
That capability, married with the extraordinary technology the group observed this week from F-15 fighter jets to cutting-edge special weapons, explains the strength behind the U.S. armed forces and what it has accomplished over the past generation, he said.
“Freedom is a fragile thing,” Bersin said. “It is not something given to us as a matter of birthright. It is something people have earned for us, and continue to earn at a price.”
Sky Dayton, president and founder of Earthlink in Santa Monica, Calif., told the group he expected the JCOC conference to focus on the gee-whiz equipment and capability at different military bases. But Dayton said the bigger impression came from the servicemembers he spoke with throughout the trip.
“I am just blown away by the quality of the people in our military,” Dayton said. “Their sense of purpose, duty and willingness to sacrifice, their levels of competence, it is just mindboggling…I am more proud today to be an American than I have ever been.”
Brad Van Liew, executive director of the South Carolina Maritime Foundation in Charleston, said he was deeply impressed by the way the military has mastered the technical-human interface as it develops the force that operates the most advanced equipment.
“I am looking at an organization that has figured out the technology and person component better than anybody else in the world, and probably better than anybody else in history,” Van Liew said.
“This is an incredible mission, an incredible time and your people are miraculous,” he told Craddock.
John Sullivan, group publisher and chief executive for Atlantic Media Company in Washington, read off some of the words he’d jotted down after they came up again and again during his chats with his fellow JCOC participants during the week.
“These are all simple, simple, yet powerful words: commitment, focus, integrity, self-confidence, dedication, teamwork, family sacrifice…,” he said.
Sullivan welcomed the opportunity JCOC provided him to learn more about the military and to gain a better appreciation for what it brings the people of the United States.
He recalled Deputy Defense Secretary Gordon England’s introductory comments to the group last week in Washington, “Everyone in America wakes up free, and it’s not by chance.”
Participants said they left JCOC with a sense of responsibility to share their impressions with others.
“The people we met over this week have faith in their country, they have faith in each other, they have faith in their military, they have faith in the organization they are part of,” Jon Wolfsthal, senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, told the group. “We now have an obligation to keep faith with them and the ideals they fight for.”
Craddock urged the civilian leaders to share their EuCom experiences when they return to their businesses and communities, particularly what they learned about the men and women who serve.
“At the end of the day, they are just ordinary people doing a hero’s job,” Craddock said.