Today our class visited MacDill Air Force Base! Our tour leaders Lt. Col. Jason Wolf, TSgt. Stephen Miles, and SSgt. Tristan Nicholas were extremely nice and so happy to show their world to mere civilians such as ourselves!
Our adventure started by meeting my fellow classmate Jordi at the USF campus at 0845 hours! Unfortunately, I had forgotten that my boyfriend still had my driver’s license with him from a previous night out. Upon remembering this small detail, I texted our professor Liisa Temple to see if we needed our ID’s to get on base. After she said presumably so, I called him and told him to meet me outside to finally get my driver’s license. After arriving about 10 minutes late, we waited for Zoe another 5 minutes while she parked her car. When we finally got on the road at about 0900 hours, we were ready to start the fun part- finding out how to get there! We followed our given directions and got there at about 0930 hours. We were last to arrive and guess what? No one even needed their ID’s. Better safe than sorry I guess!
When we all got on the bus, I definitely did not know what was in store for us that day, even though I did have my handy agenda! There were so many cool parts I don’t even know where to start! Nonetheless, I’ll start at the simulator we were taken to where the Air Force trains their new pilots how to take off and land, I’m sure among many other things. We had an experienced pilot tell us all about the buttons, switches and knobs that invaded my eyes! Of course I had to ask where the big red button was so that I could push it! There was no red button, but there were gauges all over the place! I never knew you could put so many detailed things in about 3×3 feet of wall-space! I saw that there were two seats to fly the plane and I asked how do two people fly one plane? What if they disagree? And I was answered that only one person fly while the other person checks all the gauges constantly. I also didn’t know that there are no parachutes in the planes for the pilots if they must abort. That still seems a little scary for me but they know what they are doing! After taking fabulous pictures in the cockpit, we moved on with the rest of our tour!
We managed to visit our lovely ladies of the U.S. Post Office on base who have shipped every single one of our 145 boxes. Our professor had to ask our guides to make a pit stop so that they could finally meet all the college kids making them do all this hard work! Our professor said that it takes her anywhere from 1 to 3 hours to ship our boxes and that is with the help of the ladies at the post office. We were all excited to thank them for all of their hard work and help with project we all feel so passionately for. And surprisingly, they thanked us! They think what we are doing is great and support us 100%. So happy to hear that other people are really proud of what we are doing and understand the greatness that will come from it.
As we rode around on the bus looking out onto the community that is MacDill Air Force Base, I realized that this place was a little city of it’s own! The base has a beautiful view of the Bay from its section of Bayshore, even better than the strip of Bayshore we have access to further down the road! They have rubber running sidewalks that reduce the pressure on knee joints; a Burger King; a Subway; special base housing; what they call their ‘Wal-Mart’ where you can get Louis Vuitton bags for 40% off! Sign me up! I believed SSgt. Tristan Nicholas when she stated that if they were ever told they could not leave base, they would be perfectly fine because they have all the amenities you would ever need!
Another awesome moment was when our amazing tour guides led us to Hangar 2 where they were doing maintenance on a plane! They explained to us the logistics of re-fueling and the concept of the “boomer.” That thing just sounds cool! We found out that the “boomer” extends from the re-fueling plane to the other plane and connects to it to fuel the other plane. That’s the easy way of saying it. It was crazy to find out that the two planes get so close that the person operating the “boomer” can actually see the eye color of the other plane’s pilot! Jordi asked if there were ever any mishaps, but I highly doubt we would ever know if there were.
The last part of the tour was probably the coolest and the most interesting, but that’s probably because it dealt with blowing up stuff! We were escorted to the EOD building and walked into a room that was surrounded by bomb shells, IED’s and head-sized ammunition. We were explained that the EOD technicians are usually deployed overseas and take care of disarming roadside bombs. They have one of the most dangerous jobs there is! I would assume so if they need a Bomb Suit! I tried on the helmet, but Jordi put on the whole thing, minus the groin protection (Remember the movie “Hurt Locker?”). They had him get on the floor and try to get up and let’s just say that it was hard for him to get back on his feet. They said that every 20 minutes that you are in the suit your body temperature rises 2 degrees! So they have to take 20 minute shifts in the bomb suit. They also showed us the expensive robot they had for very dangerous missions they did not want to send their people into. The force on the grip of the robot was 65-pounds per square inch!
Overall, the trip to MacDill Air Force Base was a success! All of the Airmen we met were so welcoming and happy to teach us about their lives. I am so appreciative of everything that our military does for us and was so delighted to have the opportunity to learn more about their world. If I ever get the opportunity again to go to base, I would LOVE to see the dog units. So hopefully one day I can come back and make a million more great memories!