Military Personnel 'Wow' JCOC Participants
By Rudi Williams
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Jul. 8, 2003 Forty-four civilian community leaders from across the country were "wowed" by their experiences during a weeklong Joint Civilian Orientation Conference, June 7 to 13.
The Defense Department sponsored the participants as they traveled to England, Germany, Italy, the former Soviet Republic of Georgia and to a Navy destroyer in the Mediterranean Sea.
The program is designed to give local "movers and shakers" an appreciation of the work American service members perform in defense of freedom. Started in 1948, this was the first year the participants visited American installations overseas.
American service members wowed conference participants like Roy A. Smith, owner of a Toyota dealership in Omaha, Neb.; Mary K. Hamill, president of Global News and Entertainment Company in Orlando, Fla.; and Dr. John O. Agwunobi, Florida's secretary of Health in Tallahassee.
An inter-service selection panel selected the 44 participants from among some 400 nominees. Each paid $2,100 to cover meals, lodging, receptions and incidental expenses associated with the conference. JCOC officials arranged transportation on routinely scheduled military training flights.
Mary K. Hamill said participating in the program gave her an opportunity to see firsthand what life is like in the military. "I was very impressed," said Hamill, president of the Global News and Entertainment Company, which specializes in marketing, public relations, multimedia and technology-based training.
Hamill said she was eager to hear how military priorities have shifted since Sept. 11, which was a frequent topic during the trip. "This war on terrorism requires a collaborative, multi-faceted approach that undoubtedly will be refined in the years ahead," she said. "I'm so glad I was able to see the dedicated people who are carrying out our successful anti-terrorism tactics today.
"I work with a number of former military people and have always been curious about their experiences and the types of jobs they performed," said the former broadcast journalist, who reported for CBS from Port-au-Prince, Haiti, during Operation Restore Democracy.
The JCOC concept is remarkably effective and the weeklong trip to Europe was similar to a media tour, Hamill said. "But everyone in the military was very relaxed and gracious around us, which is not the typical reaction during a media tour," she noted. "Reporters can make people nervous -- I can't imagine why!"
She said she was fascinated by the strategic and tactical training Marines are doing in the Independent Republic of Georgia. "The Marines are so dedicated and there is so much work to be done there. I was pleased to see the Marines have excellent food and decent living quarters," Hamill said. "This is a complex political situation and the way these men and women represent the U.S. will influence Georgians for many years.
"Their responsibilities are great and I am much more appreciative of not only the difficulty but also the complexity of their jobs."
Hamill said she always regarded the military as a separate society. "Now I view it as a parallel culture," she said. "The generals we were honored to meet and spend time with are (chief executive officers) of the highest calling. The folks along the entire chain of command are top-notch middle and upper management. I was so impressed with the professionalism, the dedication and the range of talents and skills we observed in literally every person we met. What a rarity, for any organization."
Roy A. Smith, who spent "a couple of days" in the Marine Corps 45-years-ago, said he was "utterly surprised" at the competency of the lower ranking personnel. "I wasn't looking for that," he said. "The esprit de corps between officers and enlisted and the appreciation officers have for the job the enlisted people do really impressed me."
Smith, a member of the U.S. Strategic Command consultation committee at Offutt Air Force Base, Omaha, Neb., said he participated in the program because of his interest in how the military is functioning.
"I was in the Marine Corps when nobody was shooting at me," said the former infantry officer who served as a commander of a rifle company. He was discharged from the Marines as a first lieutenant.
To his surprise, Smith discovered that enlisted service members today are given much more responsibility now than they were when he was on active duty. "I think they're in position to handle more responsibility because they have more education," he said. "When I was in the Marine Corps, if we got five troopers assigned to our company, it was a rarity if over two of them were high school graduates. It's not that way now. And they train and train and expect more. Therefore, they get more."
Smith vowed that when he returned home, he would stress the fact that the nation needs to be ready for a different kind of military. "We need a fast attack military," he emphasized. "We pretty well took care of communism, but this latest 'ism,' -- terrorism isn't going to be a short-term deal. It's going to be very difficult because we're not used to this kind of war. We're used to taking terrain, but not used to keeping it."
He said the military has to use different tactics and it's going to take patience on the part of the public.
After visiting Georgia, Smith said, "The idea of training a defense force in Georgia so they don't have to roll over if they're attacked very important," he said. "It fits the giant jigsaw puzzle very well, particularly for the war on terrorism."
Dr. John O. Agwunobi participated in the program because he wanted to learn how the different branches of the military interact and coordinate with each other in the war against terrorism.
"I hoped to learn ways to enhance interdisciplinary communication within my own organization," said Agwunobi, who was born in Dundee, Scotland, and studied medicine at the University of Jos, Nigeria. He said his only previous dealing with the military was working alongside Florida National Guard leadership as a member of the state's domestic security executive board.
As Florida's health secretary, Agwunobi led the state's response to the nation's first-ever intentional anthrax attack. He has since led the state's efforts to prepare for, prevent, respond to and mitigate the effects of a bioterrorism attack.
Calling the program, "absolutely fantastic!" he said the most interesting thing he learned on the weeklong trip was "the dedication and commitment of the average line-level military 'hero' -- young, dedicated, mission driven, disciplined committed, proud and highly trained and yet, very human men and women.
"In learning about joint operations and intelligence, I learned the importance of formalized roles and relationships with drilled expectations in the area of information collection, analysis and exchange," the doctor noted. "I'll endeavor to build similar models into my own organization. Most importantly, I learned about the importance of maintaining a flexible military presence abroad as it relates to the future security of our way of life in the U.S."
Agwunobi said the things he experienced on the trip changed his attitude toward the military services in that it, "deepened my respect immeasurably for the military institution and the young men and women who serve within its fold."
Even one of the military escorts was "wowed," and returned home with a different view and better understanding of what U.S. forces do overseas and why.
Coast Guard Lt. Brad Terrill said he learned many things about the armed forces during the trip. "I've been in there with the JCOC participants learning about all the things the armed forces do," said Terrill, a communications officer at Coast Guard headquarters in Washington.
The lieutenant said he was returning home with a greater appreciation for the many missions performed by the five branches of the armed forces. "I understand now how the operational components are comprised," Terrill noted. "That's something I didn't understand before."
He called U.S. Marines in Georgia training the Georgian army a noble effort, "but it's a long uphill battle," Terrill noted. "It was very eye-opening to see just how little services they have in Georgia. I also noticed that there is tremendous optimism among the Georgian soldiers I talked with. They're very happy to have us there."