Today, our class received one of the greatest opportunities and privileges we could have ever asked for as regular civilians—we were allowed a detailed tour of the MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa! A field trip in college? How cool is that? The trip was absolutely amazing, and everyone we met so was excited to meet us. They were so informative and eager to answer any questions that we had. Throughout the three hour tour, we met a lot of important people who thanked us for all that we had done, which is ironic considering how much they have done for our country.
The day began with a pick-up at the Visitor’s Center, where we boarded a bus and embarked on a windshield tour. The security on the base and all of the measures they went to ensure safety was a relief to me, and really showed how hard our military is working. They even announced that they have the largest Navy in the Air Force, making a joke about how they even secure the area of Tampa Bay that surrounds the base. Never having been on a base before, I was shocked and taken aback by how large it was! I’d always pictured it as being a smaller area near the water, but the size of it amazed me! The main thing I realized on the tour was that the base was a community. Even for those who didn’t live there, it served as a sanctuary and a place of refuge they could take when they needed peace of mind. Although many work there, when they are not at work they can still enjoy themselves as anyone else would when they went home. There are many amenities and resources available to the Airmen and their families. On the base, there are two golf courses, a pool, a marina, a large medical clinic and a shopping center. There’s even an RV Park where military retirees and their families are allowed to come down and vacation at for the winter. The park is set up to allow for a mayor and a commander, so that the retirees can “ relive their glory days!” Education, being the main focus of our classes is also something that the Air Force holds at the utmost importance. On base, there is an elementary school for the children who live on the base to attend. There are also many schools on base where professors from universities, such as the University of South Florida, teach. All officers and enlisted must attend four different schools during their service.
Seeing as MacDill is an Air Force base, we got to see a lot of planes! We even got to explore a flight simulator where we saw how much preparation and effort it takes to pilot a plane. After taking many pictures, we ventured on to our next stop. At our next stop, we got to see a G-5, which I learned meant “Gulf Stream 5.” I also learned the meaning to popular song lyrics, discovering what it means to be feeling “fly like a G-6.” The G-5 is a luxurious aircraft in which many important Air Force officers and other military personnel can conduct business in while traveling. At this stop, we learned a great deal about what different roles make up the Air Force. Positions ranged everywhere from master chefs to detail-oriented event planners. Only about 2% of the Air Force actually flies, a very surprising statistic! A really exciting sight we got to see was the inspection of an aircraft. The meticulous examination of the craft once again ensured the emphasis that the U.S. places on safety. It also exemplified the amount of pride and dedication that each Airman holds for his squadron, his work and his country. Another vocabulary word that I had the pleasure of learning today was “boomer.” A boomer is the person who operates the boom that fills up the gas tanks of other aircraft that line up behind the refueling tanker up in the sky. A simple task to anyone who drives, but a task made very difficult when being done up in the air at 700 MPH speeds.
All of this information was new and exciting, and was a pleasure to learn about. The most inspirational visit for me, however, was when we met with the EOD unit. These men, like the rest of the men and women in the military, were true heroes standing before me. Each of them had been to Afghanistan and Iraq on different occasions, and had make it back in one piece. They worked diligently to disassemble bombs and IEDs in Afghanistan, saving lives on a daily basis. Proudly, they put on their gear and put their lives as risk as they faced an IED head to head in order to save the lives of innocent citizens and soldiers. The presenter’s talk was very moving, as he spoke about the village people. He stated that the difference we have made in bettering their lives, especially providing them with schools, has made the world of a difference. As a result of US efforts, and the rapport built with them, many villagers will even provide valuable information in order to prevent any attacks on the troops. After he spoke, he led us to a room where we were able to see all of the technology created to help unarm a bomb.
At the end of the trip, we thanked our guides, not only for an amazing tour, but for all of the hard work that they have done for our country. Seeing all of the service men and women was definitely humbling, and reminded me of the cause we are constantly working for. Freedom. Not only our own freedom, but for the freedom of these young children. For their freedom to think, to openly express their opinions, to change the ways of their country. I would like to personally thank the men and wiomen we met today for educating us on all that they do, and for allowing us the opportunity to dig a little deeper into the beautiful cause we are supporting.