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JCOC: Conference Participant Would Recommend Service to Own Children

By Fred W. Baker III
American Forces Press Service

KADENA AIR FORCE BASE, Japan, Nov. 9, 2007 – If there is a decrease in support from community influencers due to the war on terror, Craig Billingsley hasn’t noticed.

Click photo for screen-resolution image
Craig Billingsley and Ann Brown, both participants in the Joint Civilian Orientation Conference, try out Army field rations at Kadena Air Base, Okinawa, Japan. Photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Michael D. Heckman, USN

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.

The vice president of Billingsley Holding Corp. in Lawton, Okla., is part of the Joint Civilian Orientation Conference, which landed here today on its fourth day of a week-long tour of the military forces in U.S. Pacific Command.

He said support for military service is strong among his peers in the small southwestern town that is home to the Army’s Fort Sill, the home of field artillery.

“Obviously, what you see in the general media may lead one to believe that some people, influencers, have lost patience with the war. Personally I don’t see that. I haven’t seen that with my contemporaries,” he said.

Billingsley’s father served stateside during the Korean War, but other than that, he has no other family in the military.

He moved to Lawton in January 1997 when his family bought a car dealership there. Since then, he has become involved in the military co-op program at Fort Sill and has gotten to know soldiers at all levels, from privates to the commanding general.

He was so impressed with the caliber of soldiers that he met he wanted to learn more about the military, Billingsley said. “I find it exciting. I find it very, very interesting to see and talk to and interact with our military personnel,” he said.

That led to his interest in the Joint Civilian Orientation Conference. Billingsley said he wanted to expand his knowledge of the military, especially in the other branches of service.

“I’ve been fortunate that I’ve been able to spend time with a lot of Army personnel. What I’ve enjoyed most of this is (seeing) the other branches of service, being able to meet the sailors and the airmen. I’ve had very little exposure to those services. It’s very eye-opening,” he said.

His first surprise on the trip was the expansive military operations in Guam.

“Two weeks ago I probably didn’t even think about Guam or that we had such a presence there through the Air Force and the Navy,” he said.

Talking to servicemembers here has brought home the sacrifices that they make, no matter where they are deployed, Billingsley said.

“It’s one thing when you see the folks at Fort Sill and you know they are deployed and you see what hardships that puts on their families back home. But until you go to where they are serving overseas, you don’t really understand what that means until you’re here,” he said. “That probably brings it home more, to see the sacrifices firsthand that they make. But they do it gladly. It’s amazing, their attitude. They ask nothing for it. They do it because they want to serve their country, and they do it proudly, and they do it of their own free will.”

A true child of the 1960s, Billingsley said he was not always so impressed by military service. In fact, he said, a decade ago he would not have recommended military service. Only since his time spent with soldiers at Fort Sill, and now his JCOC experience, has his opinion of military service been swayed. Now, Billingsley said he would even recommend it to his own children.

“If one of my children wanted to join any one of the services, I would not only recommend it, it would make me proud,” he said. “To think that your son or daughter would be serving with the caliber of people that I personally have been able to experience, I can’t imagine anything but good coming out of that.”

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Related Sites:
Joint Civilian Orientation Conference
Special Report: The 74th Joint Civilian Orientation Conference

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