Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Guest Blog Post - Linda Osmundson


Hi All

This week I'm in Europe traveling with the Joint Civilian Orientation Conference (JCOC). John Stross past chair of the CASA Trustees nominated me and I am here with almost 50 other "community leaders" including only 10 women. You can google JCOC and follow along with JCOC 76 and you will hear more about our adventures and you can read the bios of the rest of the group. It's a very impressive group! JCOC is part of the public relations for the Department of Defense for which you get nominated and chosen. We arrived in Washington Friday and only knew that we were going to Europe. There they told us we would be going to Crete, Spain, UK and Germany. On Friday we toured the Pentagon and the new 9/11 memorial. It is quite impressive. We received briefings by generals and could ask them questions. The most interesting question was about Pakistan and what are we doing there. The general gave a political non-answer and we all laughed.
After dinner they loaded us on a huge C-17 and we flew overnight to Souda Bay on the island of Crete. The plane is a generally used to transport troops and equipment. It has no windows. We were issued earplugs, blankets and pillows. They also gave us nice back packs, jackets and JCOC polo shirts. There were cots stacked three-high for some of us so I got a little sleep. We arrived in Crete and had a couple hours off so I walked through the town and back on the beach. There was a great dinner and another briefing by the General Fitzgerald who is in charge of EUCOM which includes all of Europe and Africa. Africa will be split off as its own command this fall.
Afterwards a group of the younger folks, mostly young Marines and Navy guys who are escorting us and some of the staff and I went out bar hopping and dancing. I don't drink but had great fun dancing with young guys half my age even though we were all pretty tired. The next morning we boarded a bus and went to to the base where we were given helmets with ear covers amd goggles and loaded on 5 helicopters. It was thrilling because I have never been in a helicopter before. I was so excited I couldn't help grinning the whole time. We landed on the deck of the USS Iwo Jima, an aircraft carrier with about 2500 sailors and Marines. We ate lunch with the troops and talked a little to them about their tour. Most joined because they wanted to help their country. Some had already been to Iraq and were hoping to go to Afghanistan. My young escort joined after 9/11 at age 25, a little older than many. They were all so young and many had huge, important responsibilities. We were welcomed by the Captain and the Commodore and toured around the ship in small groups. Everywhere we went there were Marines and sailors standing at attention, greeting us and shaking our hands. It was a rabbit warren of passage ways. After lunch I was led to a bathroom and then had no idea how to get back to the group until they assigned a young Marine to lead me back.
We toured the medical area where they proudly explained they provided the first "airport" and hospital for Katrina victims. They have full hospital and surgical capabilities. They showed us weaponry and armored vehicles. Then they issues helmets and earplugs again and took us to the deck where we watched helicopters and Harrier planes do a fly-by and then land. The Harriers actually hover and move sideways and drop straight down to land. When they take off they go straight up like a helicopter. I've never seen anything like it. WOW! We also saw a craft that hovered on an air cushion that could also go on land and was used to transport various land vehicles.
We ended the evening with a wonderful Greek dinner in a lovely local restaurant that took hours! Tomorrow we get up at 6AM to fly to Spain.

What an incredible experience!

Linda O

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