As a pleasant surprise, I was an invited participant last month in the National Security Forum at the Air War College at Maxwell Air Force Base in Montgomery, Alabama. It was a fabulous experience that I will never forget.
My host and sponsor was Col. David Torres, and I was treated royally for this climactic week, which serves as the finale for the Air War College's 10-month program for highly select senior officers.
Our speakers included General John Jumper, USAF Chief of Staff; General Peter Pace, USMC, Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff; and Dr. James Roche, Secretary of the Air Force, in addition to world-class experts from various "think tanks" distinguished for their resources impacting national security, the world geopolitical scene, and the Middle East.
In addition to the plenary sessions, we participated in closed discussion seminars with professional instructors, participants from the Defense Intelligence Agency, Central Intelligence Agency, State Department, etc. The sessions were fascinating and very perspective building, with ample opportunities for give-and-take discussions with the principals.
In addition to the insightful information exchanges, we were also treated to some "hands on" exposure to current weapons systems: The F-117, the Predator UAV, F-16s, F-15s, A-10s, et al. (The Predator and the F-117 can be seen in the following snapshots:[photo #1] [photo #2].) We were also treated to our own air show, which, among other things, featured the stealth B-2.
I also had the opportunity to fly the F-22! (In a simulator, of course!) Stealth and Mach 2! To give you an idea of the cockpit environment, there are 22 switches just on the throttle alone! Plus four large computer screens in addition to the heads-up display! And all without my having to wear a G-suit!
I also had an opportunity to give an impromptu Bible study session and was pleasantly surprised by the number of officers who are unabashedly professing Christians.
It has been quite a few years since I spent time in the E-ring of the Pentagon, or nested in a cubicle of a strategic think-tank, and I, frankly, had a blast. In addition to the strategic insights, it brought back many pleasant memories. In addition to Air Force officers, there were officers from the Army, Navy, and several foreign countries. I was the beneficiary of some provocative insights on numerous strategic topics, including terrorism, homeland security, and the changing horizons of Europe, Asia, and the Middle East. While I am enjoined from any specific attributions, the entire experience will prove useful in preparing our own briefing materials. Experiences and exchanges like this forum serve as an essential "reality check" on our perspectives.
The people-without exception-were warm and friendly and thoroughly competent. I came away with a profound respect and renewed confidence in the professionalism of our military, and a deep gratitude to Major General Bentley Rayburn who made my participation possible.
It can be said that being a soldier is the noblest profession:
Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.-
Let's remember to pray for our people in uniform.
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