2018 MacDill AFB AirFest Offers Event App

Blue Angels

The U.S. Navy Blue Angels

The U.S. Navy Blue Angels will streak across Tampa Bay skies this weekend, May 12-13, as the Good Year Blimp motors along at a slower pace for the 2018 AirFest.

Admission is open to the public, free and with free parking at MacDill Air Force Base, 3108 N. Boundary Blvd., Tampa, FL.

To make it easier to plan your visit, MacDill crews created an AirFest App. You can download the MacDill AirFest App or a visitor’s guide for transportation, parking, show schedules and ground displays.

“We get to give back to this community that supports us so much. We get to basically show them virtually everything the Air Force does in a pretty little package – in a two day period,” said Colonel April Vogel, commander of MacDill AFB and the 6th Air Mobility Wing.

This Saturday and Sunday, between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m., you can watch the Blue Angels, an F-22 Raptor Demo and Special Operations Para-Commandos Flag Jump plus a wide variety of aircraft performance including a P-51, a single-seat fighter known as a Mustang.

Visitors also can explore 18 different aircraft on the tarmac from a Cessna to a super-tanker and even experience what it’s like aboard the U.S. Navy Nimitz through virtual reality.

Vogel said virtually every airman has worked to make the free community event possible.

“Putting on an airshow is quite a monumental task. So, we’ve been working on this for better part of a year mostly because we want to make sure it’s as great as event as last time,” Vogel said.

Food vendors will be set up as well tents with air conditioning to protect visitors from Florida’s heat.

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50th Anniversary Of The Vietnam War Observances

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The National Vietnam War Memorial in Washington D.C. Photo courtesy: VA Blog

The National Vietnam War Veterans Day is March 29 with the 50th anniversary being observed this year. Hundreds of commemorative events are listed nationwide. Some Tampa Bay remembrances are listed below.

TAMPA – Green Beret and decorated Vietnam Veteran Bill “Hawk” Albracht tops the special plans for the Hillsborough Veterans Memorial Park ceremony remembering those who served in the war. The observance begins Saturday, March 24, 2018, at 10 a.m. at the park, 3602 Highway 301, Tampa, FL.

The presentations will include remembrances of Gold Medal Recipients, War Dogs and “The Last Patrol” presentation. Veterans and civilians are invited for a morning of reverence and camaraderie.

ST. PETERSBURG – The Bay Pines VA Healthcare System will observe National Vietnam War Veterans Recognition Day throughout the week of March 26 – 30, 2018,

Vietnam Veterans will have the opportunity to receive a special commemorative lapel pin at the C.W. Bill Young VA Medical Center, the Lee County Healthcare Center, and the Community Based Outpatient Clinics located in Bradenton, Naples, Palm Harbor, Port Charlotte, Saint Petersburg, Sarasota and Sebring. Living U.S. Veterans who served on active duty in the U.S. Armed Forces at any time during the period of November 1, 1955 to May 15, 1975, regardless of location are eligible to receive one pin. Proof of service is not required. Former service members can simply identify as a Vietnam Veteran to receive a pin.

  • March 26 – 30, 2018 (All Week) | 8:00 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. Pins will be available for pickup at the primary check-in desks at all CBOCs and at the main volunteer/welcome desk located on the first floor of the Lee County Healthcare Center.
  • Monday, March 26, 2018 | 9:00 a.m. – 10:00 a.m. VA and MyVA Community Engagement Board leaders will distribute pins at the C.W. Bill Young VA Medical Center’s Lakeside Clinic (building 102), Veterans Canteen (building 1), primary entrances of the hospital building (building 100), and mental health center (building 111).
  • Thursday, March 29, 2018 | 11:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m. Pins will be distributed at the Bay Pines Fisher House open house event. The house is located on the campus of the C.W. Bill Young VA Medical Center.

TAMPA – At a commemoration ceremony, U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor (D-FL) will honor Vietnam War Veterans and hand out commemorative lapel pins Tuesday, March 27th at 10 a.m. at the Hillsborough Veterans Resource Center, 3602 Highway 301 North, Tampa, FL. Open to family and friends. If you plan to participate contact Dewayne L. Mallory at Dewayne.Mallory@mail.house.gov .

Patriot Plaza at night Steven Brooke - September

Patriot Plaza at night. Photo by Steven Brooke courtesy of The Patterson Foundation.

SARASOTA – Retired Gen. Hugh Shelton, former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, is the featured speaker at a celebration of Vietnam Veterans set Thursday, March 29, 2018 at 9:30 a.m. at Patriot Plaza, Sarasota National Cemetery, 9810 State Road 72, Sarasota, FL. Music will be provided by the First Brass of Sarasota along with contributions from Alpha Company Vietnam Brotherhood and Military Officers of America, Sarasota Chapter. Contact Ellwood Schiffman bandw@comcast.net for details.

 

Some Military Families Get Little Help After Moving Disasters

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Movers unpack a van at Sarah Taranto’s house in May 2017. Many of the Tarantos’ possessions arrived damaged, while other had been stolen during the moving process.
Photo Courtesy of: Sarah Taranto

Carson Frame reported the following story for the American Homefront Project.

The average military family moves every two to three years. Their household goods are supposed to move with them, but that doesn’t always happen … and some families say the military doesn’t do much to help.

Sarah Taranto’s forehead knots with frustration as she looks through old photos on her laptop. She’s an amateur photographer who loves to capture images of her life with family and all the places they’ve been stationed with the Army.

But she never expected to need the photos as documentation.

The Tarantos moved from Grafenwoehr, Germany to San Antonio in May 2017. The Army paid for their move and selected the moving company. But when their furniture and household items arrived in Texas, somebody had ransacked the shipment. Continue reading

Florida National Guard Deploys To Southwest Asia

FL national guard 3rd 116th

Florida National Guard Soldiers with 3rd Battalion, 116th Field Artillery, participate in range qualifications, March 22, 2013, at Camp Shelby, Miss. (Photo Credit: Spc. Lam Phi Nguyen)

Some 120 guardsmen from the Florida 3rd of the 116th Field Artillery Battalion are deploying overseas to support Operation Spartan Shield, a combined forces contingency operation designed to deter and react to possible threats within Southwest Asia.

The unit will be deployed for an entire year.

In addition to family and friends, Florida Gov. Rick Scott plans to attend the deployment ceremony scheduled Sunday, Jan. 7, 2018, Joker Marchant Stadium, located at 2301 Lakeland Hills Blvd, Lakeland.

Operation Spartan Shield is part of U.S. Central Command area of responsibility.

Field Of Honor Ceremony For Military Killed In Last 3 Months

The Field of Honor where names of the fallen are etched at the Hillsborough Veterans Memorial Park.

The Veterans Council of Hillsborough County holds a brief ceremony every three months to read aloud the names of the fallen and to mark their contribution and sacrifice in the fight against terrorism. To be recognized on Jan. 13, 2018, are those who were killed in October, November, and December of 2017:

  • Four personnel killed during Operation Inherent Resolve (Iraq, Syria and Yemen)
  • Four personnel killed during Operation Freedom’s Sentinel (Afghanistan)
  • Three sailors lost in a C-2A Greyhound transport plane in the Philippine Sea
  • Four Special Forces soldiers killed in Niger
  • 74 previously unidentified remains of military members from World War II, Korea, and Vietnam (military personnel formerly listed as missing-in-action now identified through advancements in mitochondrial DNA research).

The tribute also will include law enforcement officers lost in the line of duty.

The ceremony is planned Saturday, Jan. 13, 2018 at 10 a.m. at Veterans Memorial Park and Rear Admiral LeRoy Collins, Jr. Veterans Museum, 3602 U.S. Highway 301 N., Tampa, FL.

Plans for the public event include a banner presentation by Blue Star Mothers of Tampa Bay Inc., the Buffalo Soldiers Motorcycle Club color guard, Missing Man Formation flyover by Ye Mystic Airkrewe, Gold Star Families, patriotic music by Cody Palmer/VFW Post 8108, and a traditional rifle salute and taps by the Sgt. Walter P. Ryan Detachment 1226 Marine Corps League of Riverview.

Details are available by calling the Veterans Memorial Park and Museum at (813) 744-5502 or (813) 246-3170.

Military Retirees – Valued State Assets

afd scott neil points to glass wall separating distillery from restaurant

Retired Green Beret and co-founder of the American Freedom Distillery, Scott Neil, points to the framework that will become a glass wall separating the distillery from the restaurant.

States are competitive whether they’re vying to keep their military bases or to attract new corporate headquarters. And now, there’s a new tug of war over military retirees who come with pensions, health care and are a proven workforce.

Florida, already a retirement haven, is adding veteran specific programs to entice even more military retirees to the Sunshine State.

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Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam speaking at the Florida Chamber of Commerce Foundation conference in 2016 on the military and veterans economy.

“It means that if you are processing out of the military and you want to build your business here in Florida – we’re going to waive the application fees on almost every occupational license that’s out there,” said Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam at a business conference last year. “It means if you’re applying for a concealed weapons license, you’re going to go to the front of the line and it’s going to be expedited in less than two weeks.”

Florida officials like to brag that they’re the most veteran friendly state in the nation. So, there’s no ambivalence – if you’re retiring military – Florida Wants You!

That message was not lost on Hillsborough County Judge Daryl Manning when he retired after 30 years of service in the Army and Reserves. He settled in Tampa, his final post, over other places he’d served like Fort Bragg, Fort Hood and Norfolk.

“Of course, it’s the beautiful weather. It’s also the military climate that’s here. Not only for active duty military but for retirees, the community is so welcoming that it was hard not to be a part of it,” Manning said.

Ed-Drohan

In Afghanistan, Ed Drohan worked as a civilian contractor with the Department of Defense after retiring from the military, but he eventually settled on Tampa as his final home.

In Florida, there’s no state income tax, so no tax on military pensions.  And because the state has 20 military installations, retirees have easy access to on-base amenities like golf courses, health clubs, and tax-free shopping.

More than a dozen other states have passed laws exempting military pensions from state taxes – as they too try to lure retired service members.

“Just the idea there’s a steady income. They know there’s that pension coming in,” said Air Force retiree Ed Drohan who came to Tampa to work at James A. Haley VA. “They’re more likely to be self-supporting, self-sufficient and able to support the local economy as well.”

Not only are military retirees often more self-sufficient – they’re often younger.

“I think a lot of people don’t know or don’t realize that the average officer is only 45 years old upon retirement from service So many times they have to go back into the civilian workforce,” said Jill Gonzalez is an analyst with the personal finance website, WalletHub. She wrote a study on the best places for service members to retire which ranked Florida at the top in 2017.

afd looking into distillery

The interior of a St. Petersburg warehouse, under construction, that’s being converted into the American Freedom Distillery and restaurant.

And Florida has made it a priority to help military retirees and veterans find a second career. Lawmakers created a grant program that reimburses businesses for half of their training costs for every veteran hired up to $8,000 per employee. And the state also started an entrepreneurship program just for veterans.

The Veterans Florida entrepreneurship program is one reason that persuaded former Green Beret Scott Neil, a recent retiree, to resettle in his native Florida.

“I was one of the first into Afghanistan, then to Iraq and then Africa. So I’ve been around the world,” Neil said. “And luckily for me, the headquarters of Special Operations is in Tampa when I decided where I should retire to, I chose my last assignment as Tampa, Florida MacDill Air Force Base so it naturally fit.”

afd exterior party deck side

The exterior, including a concrete party deck, of the American Freedom Distillery which is co-founded by Green Beret veterans in St. Petersburg, FL.

Another natural fit for Neil was starting his own business with some of his Green Beret buddies. They’re getting ready to open the American Freedom Distillery in St. Petersburg where construction is almost complete. Neil completed Florida’s entrepreneurship program which he says built a sense of community with other Florida vets.

“All the alumni, we continue to get together and talk about how far are you with your great idea and we motivate each other,” Neil said.

A Department of Defense report from last year shows more than 198,000 military retirees live in Florida – that’s second only to Texas. That means more than $5 billion in military pensions are coming into the Sunshine State every year.

 

Graduating JROTC Cadets Ready And Eager To Serve

JROTC retired Army Lt Col Mo Bolduc shows the display of ribbons and flags that adorn the JROTC room and computer lab

Newsome High JROTC instructor, retired Lt. Col. Mo Buldoc points out the display of ribbons and flags that adorn their computer lab and classroom.
Bobbie O’Brien / WUSF Public Media

The teenagers graduating this spring were still in diapers when terrorists attacked the United States September 11, 2001. Yet, many of the high school graduates are stepping up to join the military despite the ongoing “war against terror” and recent tensions in Syria and North Korea.

Graduation starts today at Hillsborough County public high schools. First in line is Newsome High School,  southeast of Tampa in the suburban neighborhood of Fishhawk. As seniors cross the stage at the state fairgrounds to claim their diplomas – many are advancing to college, others moving directly into the workforce and still others are chosing military service.

WUSF talked with several JROTC graduating seniors from Newsome and Steinbrenner high schools about  about their choice of a military life during these times of heightened tensions with North Korea, Syria and the ongoing conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Toddlers in a Time of Terrorism

JROTC Walter Wahle

Newsome JROTC cadet Walter Wahle

“Iraq and Afghanistan, we’ve been there since I was one,” said Walter Wahle, 17. “So, it’s kind of just, I guess my generation’s war. Like in the 60s it was Vietnam. So, that’s just where it is today.”

Wahle is enlisting in the U.S. Marine Corps Reserves, then heading to college, Hillsborough Community College and the University of South Florida, this fall after graduating from Newsome.

The military is the only life Wahle has known.  His dad is a Marine who’s served in Iraq twice.  And this summer, his father will be deploying to Kuwait while Wahle is in boot camp.

“People think that when you join the military you’re signing up to go fight and die” Wahle said. “Most people don’t fight in the military and they only die if they’re in harms’ way and today the number of casualties is so much lower than it has been in past wars and conflicts that people are going to serve, they’re not going to die.”

War Through The Hollywood Lens

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Newsome JROTC cadet Destini Rainey

The 2005 movie Jarhead, a classic film that provides a deep look into a Marine’s deployment during Desert Storm, is how Destini Rainey was introduced to the military. As a child, Rainey remembers playing military games with her cousin after seeing the film.

“When I watched Jarhead, you see the infantry men shooting people and all the violent graphics,” Rainey said. “But now that I’ve matured, I don’t think that’s the scenario I’m going to be in. That’s kind of why I choose the Navy. They’re less combative than the Marines and Army. So. I’ll be more of the brains instead of the brawn.”

Rainey is scheduled to report on Christmas Day to become a Navy aerographer’s mate. They track the weather and oceans.

“Personally, I hope that we do not go to war,” Rainey said. “I have faith in the president and the other government officials that they make the right decision on what we do with North Korea and Syria. Not my place to say anything about it. So, just if we do go to war, then so be it.”

A Family Military Tradition

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Steinbrenner JROTC cadet Nathan Egli

The responsibility of war is what Nathan Egli, 18, thought about when he considered his chosen career. He’s headed off to college at Miami of Ohio on a Marine ROTC scholarship. He plans to become an officer, just like his father.

“I’ve realized that wanting to be a leader of Marines in the future is going to be a very difficult task because I’m in charge of multiple things, multiple responsibilities and including other men’s lives. That’s a very difficult thing to grasp  because in the battlefield and just war in general, a lot of things can go wrong,” Egli said.

The Steinbrenner High School graduate said his father, who retired from the Marines in March, supports his decision to follow him in the military and so does his mother.

That support was common among all of the graduates we talked to. One Army recruit said his mom encouraged him to join.  Although she will miss him, she told him he’s doing something he needs to do.

Below are additional voices of young high school graduates who have chosen a military life. They were not part of the broadcast story. We invite you to listen to their thoughts on why they wanted to serve their country and protect all who live here.

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