This has turned out to be the start of an excellent weekend. I spent my day at Fairchild Air Force Base, as part of the ESGR Boss Lift event.
Nearly 30-40 employers were invited to spend a day on the base, touring, learning about the base’s function, taking part in a weapons simulation and going on a refueling flight.
Leaving my place a bit early, around 6:15, I thought there would be no problem getting on the base. Instead, a massive traffic jam greeted myself and everyone else headed there. I swear, this month has been one terrible traffic trauma after another. Nearly 20 minutes later, and I’d gone about a quarter of a mile, making it inside the gates.
Despite the mass amount of people, it was a privilege to be among the men and women who put on the uniform. Looking at the surrounding vehicles, it gave me chills being with them.
Breakfast consisted of a briefing of Fairchild’s mission, history and my first experience with a parfait. I’ll have to try another in the near future. Despite a seething hatred of yogurt, this was pretty good.
To be frank, I was surprised to see that there were so few employers from the area in attendance. The members of the National Guard who spoke to us emphasized how important it was to know they had a secure job when returning from deployment. I felt guilty, being thanked for a comparatively small service that I’ve made to National Guard members over the past two years.
They are the ones who deserve the thanks.
Following breakfast, we were taken out to another building, where they housed a rifle shooting simulation operation. An air-powered hose connected to the four guns created a similar feel to that of a real bullet. A (somewhat cheesy) video scenario played out, where the instructor was able to track where bullets went and coach us on how to improve our posture and approach. The scenario helps teach soldiers when to fire, and if they’ve made a successful shot.
After a few of us took our turns, a group of guardsmen stepped up… the poor man on the screen had no chance.
Fairchild houses three medical tents in one of their hangars. One of those tents can be deployed in 12 to 24 hours. Nine of these tents are stationed across the U.S.: three at Fairchild, three in Kansas and another three in Pennsylvania.
Our refueling flight was being piloted by Dale Smith, a pilot with nearly 30 years of experience. It was his final flight before retiring. Part of the base’s media personnel were on hand for the flight, taking video and photos of those on board. Now, I’m used to being the one with the camera… just not with three pointed on me at every move.
The crew was surprisingly relaxed, and had playful banter with all of us at some point. Altogether, they are a good group of guys that trust each other to do their jobs. While they may have some lighthearted jokes from time to time, they know when to get into action. You really see the full spectrum of boot camp training when you’re on the base. There is the individualistic side of a guardsman, and then in an instant the duty side kicks in when work needs to be done.
Flying on a 50-year-old aircraft wasn’t nearly as bad as expected. Sure, there were more creaks and groans than a geriatric getting out of bed, and the temperature flashed from boiling hot to arctic cold, but it was all worth it.
It was an honor to spend the day with some of the finest soldiers in the military. Although they may have been thanking employers for their support, the real thanks go out to them. Without the sacrifice and dedication of our armed forces, we as a people are nothing. They are our rock, our inspiration and the reason why we can go to bed safely at night.
A mere “thank you” is hardly enough.