Prior to moving to Brownwood in January 1997, I had not been involved with any activities related to the military in years. After graduation from college, a U.S. Air Force recruiter was the first one to inform me of my hearing difficulties. I had applied for a pilot and navigation program. After taking a series of written exams, I reported to Selfridge Air Force Base for what turned out to be a six-hour physical examination. I could tell I was in trouble by the look on the face of the audio examiner and sure enough my hearing proved to be down enough audible degrees to disqualify me for the program. During the 30-year interval from college to the Bulletin, most of my association with the military has been through family members.
I learned quickly upon my arrival of Brownwood’s storied partnership with the U. S. Army. I had heard about Camp Bowie from Norman Fisher, the publisher I worked with in Stephenville. As a Brownwood native and editor of the Bulletin, he had plenty of stories about the base that he shared with the staff. What I did not hear about was the continued relationship the city had with the military after the camp closed. The National Guard facility in Brownwood and its role in the western training area has remained significant for both the Army and the community.
In the dozen years as publisher of the Bulletin, I have been privileged to be included in several V.I.P. events for Brownwood citizens at Fort Hood. I have a photo on my office wall of me sitting in an Apache helicopter from one of the trips. On another visit I, along with others were given the opportunity to try our hand on an Apache flight simulator. But a particularly memorable experience for me was a ride to Fort Hood in a Black Hawk helicopter — doors open. The relationship between Brownwood and the military is more than just public relations. During my five-year tenure on the board of the Brownwood Area Chamber of Commerce, we hosted several events that brought home to me the significance of the relationship. The training facility in Brownwood and the entire western training area has helped the U.S. in the sale of military helicopters to other countries with whom we trade. The Netherlands was deciding between American made Apache helicopters and a French version. We learned during an appreciation dinner for the Dutch pilots training in Brownwood that it was the cooperation of the community and the opportunity to train in the area that swung the deal.
I am not a veteran, but I don’t think one has to be to appreciate, understand and support the men and women in our armed forces. It comes as part of the package of being a citizen of this country. Along with voting and paying taxes to support the government, doing what one can to support the people who are securing that government and its people should be a given. That is why I was surprised when Gene Deason and I received certificates of appreciation from the U.S. Army Freedom Team Salute for support of SPC Rick Phelps. The certificates were signed by General George W. Casey, U.S. Army Chief of Staff, and Pete Geren, Secretary of the Army. Phelps is a member of the news team when he is not serving with the Guard in Iraq, on hurricane duty somewhere in the states, or training.
Gene and I were proud to receive the certificates and the thank you. We will tell you that it is a test from time-to-time to manage around a Guard member’s schedule with limited resources. However, we never thought about not doing it. Apparently, there are employers in the country who do not see it the same way. This week another certificate suitable for framing arrived, this one from the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense For Reserve Affairs, recognizing the Brownwood Bulletin as a patriotic employer.
Information on the Web site for Employer Support for the Guard and Reserve said that more than half of the men and women serving in our armed forces are members of the National Guard and Reserve. Their performance must meet the same standards as their active duty counterparts, and since they are not full-time it costs the government and taxpayers far less. It seems to me, we all have a role in maintaining a strong national defense — protecting a service member’s job is one of our roles as employers.
Robert Brincefield is vice president and publisher of the Brownwood Bulletin. His column appears on Sunday. He may be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.