Every once in a while I have the opportunity to meet some interesting and sometimes very important people. Today (Tuesday) was one of those days thanks to an Atlanta Press Club luncheon.
The guest speaker was Lt. Gen William Caldwell, Commander, NATO Training Mission – Afghanistan/ Combined Security Transition Command – Afghanistan. I attended because of my growing interest in all things military. Now that my son is a second lieutenant, I take any opportunity I can to learn more about our involvement in conflict areas. I arranged to meet some friends there one who used to serve with the General 30 years ago when they were both Captains.
I arrived early to stake out good seats. Fortunately, it worked and we sat very close to the podium. While the guests waited for the arrival of Lt. Gen Caldwell, we all began to visit. I had the pleasure of riding the elevator with retried General Burba who it turns out was the top person at Ft. Benning where my son is now in training in the Armor Basic Officer Leaders Course. At our table, I met John King, who it turns out is not only the Chief of Police for the City of Doraville, GA, but is a Colonel in the U.S. Army having served in Iraq Afghanistan with the Lt. Gen.
North Georgia College and State University helped to sponsor the luncheon and several of the Army ROTC staff members from the school attended. I made sure to say hello to them and tell them of how impressed I was by their cadets when I met them at the funeral for Spc Gary L. Nelson, III a few months ago.
The General and his team arrived and began to mingle with the guests. My friend, Bill Maddox, went to say hello. It had been 30+ years since Bill and Lt. Gen Caldwell served together, but they greeted each other like it was yesterday. I snapped a few photos for Bill, then he returned the favor by introducing me to the general. I told the general my son is a graduate of The Citadel and is now a second lieutenant.
The general is really big on using social media. I thanked him for his work in that area then told him how great it has been as the mom of a new 2LT to follow the Armor BOLC training via their Facebook group. Bill snapped a quick photo of us together before the official luncheon began.
Lt. General Caldwell educated the gathering about the NATO mission in Afghanistan. The Vision as stated in his PowerPoint presentation is as follows “An Afghan National Security Force that transitions to full security lead in Afghanistan by the end of 2014.” He explained that the training of the police, Army, Air Force, medical staff and other services are key to transition.
Only 1 in 10 Afghan citizens is literate which means they need to educate people in basic reading and counting before they can take on certain tasks like inventory and training and eventually leadership. So far, the NATO efforts there have brought 100,000 Afghans to some level of literacy - 50 percent of the military and police are now literate. In answer to a question about whether the people of Afghanistan want them there, he replied, “They want us there only as long as needed to help them take the lead.”
After the Q&A period my friend Bill wanted to thank the general. I stayed to take more photos. As it turned out, the general took photos with both of us. He thanked me for coming to the luncheon and supporting my son. I told him about Off the Base and the creator of the blog Bobbie O’Brien and her fellowship with the Rosalyn Carter Mental Health Journalism Program. When I told him I am on the board of the nonprofit, Care For The Troops, and that after getting my master of divinity I found my calling is to educate people about traumatic stress, he told me his wife also has her M. Div. degree.
That is when something really neat happened. He reached into his pocket and asked me if I knew what a military coin is. I said yes. He then said, “You tell your son I gave this to you for supporting him.” He handed me a coin that reads:
NATO Training Mission
Yes, some days I have the opportunity to meet some very interesting and important people. Today was one of those days.
Filed under: Military families, National Guard, U.S. Army Tagged: | Afghanistan, Armor BOLC, Army, Atlanta Press Club, Bill Maddox, Care For The Troops, Challenge Coin, Chief John King, Dorie Griggs, Ft. Benning, General Ed Burba, IV, Lt. Gen. William B. Caldwell, Milblogging.com, Military challenge coins, National Guard, NATO Training Mission - Afghanistan, NTM-A, postaday2011, Posttraumatic stress disorder, Rosalynn Carter Mental Health Journalism Fellowship, The Citadel