Civilian Leaders Begin European Phase of DoD Orientation
By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service
RAMSTEIN AIR BASE, Germany, Jun. 8, 2004 Nearly 50 civilian leaders arrived here today for the first European stop during their week-long introduction to military operations supporting the global war on terror.
Business, academic and local government leaders from throughout the United States traveled here during the 2004 Joint Civilian Orientation Conference, the only program of its kind in the Defense Department.
The annual conference was established in 1948 by then-Defense Secretary James V. Forrestal "to expose people who don't have a really strong understanding of the military to the operations of the different services," according to Chris Willcox, deputy assistant defense secretary for public affairs.
Willcox said giving community leaders the opportunity to witness and learn about military capabilities is particularly important as the nation wages the war on terror. "It's important to communicate the vital importance of winning this type of war and showing people our capabilities to win this war," he said.
Although the military services have programs to educate civilian leaders about their activities, Willcox said, the conference is unique in that it showcases all the services and the jointness of today's military operations.
"It gives leaders a very close-in impression of how the military functions in the field," he said. "There's really not anything else like it."
The goal of the program, he said, is for participants to return to their communities to share their experiences.
Based on the first day of the conference, the participants will have plenty to share. They met with Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz and toured the Pentagon, including the National Military Command Center.
"It was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity," said Jerry Woehr, a school superintendent from the Plumsted School District in New Egypt, N.J. "I never would have gotten into the Pentagon otherwise."
The group then traveled to Andrews Air Force Base, Md. There, they learned about weapons and security operations used by the 89th Security Forces Squadron and got an unparalleled bird's-eye view of the Washington's National Mall in UH-1 Huey helicopters flown by the 1st Helicopter Squadron.
David Moscow, vice chairman of the Hudson Group, a retailer and distributor of books, newspapers and magazines, said the flight gave him a great opportunity to photograph the national monuments in a way he just couldn't match on foot the day before. "This is it!" he exclaimed. "There's just nothing like this!"
Joanee Udelf, president of GU Associates, a California real estate investment company, was a bit more succinct in her appraisal of the flight: "Whoo-hoo!"
Jim Rich, senior vice president of operations for Frito-Lay, said he's looking forward to what's ahead on the trip. A real highlight, he said, would be catching a glimpse of one or two of his almost 300 employees who've been called to active duty in the Reserve and National Guard.
"I'd love to see some of my people," he said. "That would be a great experience."