A group of 20 officers and enlisted Airmen traveled to Washington D.C. for a three-day professional development trip that connected what they do here to the larger U.S. military and government.
The Airmen were selected from the base’s Rising Six and Company Grade Officers Council to accompany Col. Mike Zick, 19th Airlift Wing vice commander, who mentored the Airmen as they toured national monuments and federal government buildings.
The purpose of the trip was to, “learn more about the profession of arms and reinvigorate that sense of pride in what we do,” said the colonel. “The wing wanted to break some of its warriors out of their day-to-day stovepipes and introduce them to a much broader look at how the department of defense works ... and remind them that what we do on a daily basis really matters.”
2nd Lt. Patrick Daugherty, base CGOC president and a flight commander with the 19th Medical Group, organized the trip and built the itinerary with Colonel Zick. “We built an itinerary that would be relevant to the profession of arms and airpower,” Lieutenant Daugherty said. “I purposely selected a variety of career fields and ranks to make sure we would learn from each other along with the events of the trip.”
The group flew on a C-130J to Andrews Air Force Base, Md., and billeted on Bolling Air Force Base, D.C.
The first evening included visits to the Abraham Lincoln, Thomas Jefferson, World War I, World War II, Korean War Veterans, and Vietnam Veterans Memorials. At each location, two Airmen shared remarks about the significance of that memorial and the significance air power had on the event it represented.
“When we first arrived it was raining, dark, and cold, and all I wanted to do was get to our room until we came across the Korean War Memorial,” said Lieutenant Daugherty. “It quickly put the entire trip into perspective; there are men and women who have endured suffering and sacrifice to advance freedom, home and abroad. This humbling beginning to the trip set the stage to what would be an eye-opening and insightful series of events that renewed my sense of belonging to something bigger than myself.”
Another group member reflected on the visit to the Korean War Veteran’s Memorial. “When I thought I couldn’t take anymore (walking in the cold),” said Capt. Ben Blanchet, a 41st Airlift Squadron pilot, “I realized they did do much more with a lot less, and I realized I could walk a little more.”
The second day included a visit to Arlington National Cemetery where the group witnessed the Changing of the Guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and visited Arlington House, The Robert E. Lee Memorial and the Women In Military Service For America Memorial museum.
“To pay our respects to so many of our brothers and sisters that made the ultimate sacrifice to secure our freedoms and liberties, it was truly an honor,” Colonel Zick said. “The coldness of the air that day only seemed to remind us that we must be ready to answer our nations call no matter the day or hour. That is why it is so important to be prepared socially, spiritually, mentally and physically.”
They continued on to the Air Force Memorial and an open afternoon at the National Mall where the Airmen visited Smithsonian museums of their choice. A few made their way up to the observation deck of the Washington Monument.
The third day, the Airmen donned their service dress uniforms for a tour of the Pentagon and visit to the Pentagon Memorial, the permanent outdoor memorial to the 184 people killed in the building and on American Airlines Flight 77 in the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.
“We are living history and what happens today will be remembered tomorrow,” said 2nd Lt. Hannah Kosirog, a contracting officer from the 19th Contracting Squadron, reflecting on the memorial.
The day continued with a tour of the U.S. Capitol, where the group sat in on sessions of both Houses of Congress.
“I can’t get that worked up about the small things when I see the big picture,” said Tech. Sgt. Tiffany Johnson, the 19th Civil Engineer Squadron noncommissioned officer-in-charge of entomology.
The planned conclusion of the trip was a photo op at the National Christmas Tree near the White House. However, just before the group departed Andrews AFB, they saw Vice President Joe Biden walk across the tarmac from his helicopter, take some photos, return a salute, board Air Force Two and take off.
If an Airman has an idea for a trip like this, he or she should, “Come up with a purpose, cost, and tentative itinerary and you have yourself a proposal,” Lieutenant Daugherty said. “The proposal can first go through one of our professional organizations (CGOC, Rising Six, Top 3, etc.) followed by a presentation to the vice commander and command chief master sergeant.”
There will be more opportunities for other Airmen to take part in trips like this, Colonel Zick said. “When able, the wing plans on doing a professional development trip at least semiannually. It will draw upon the ranks of its professional organizations (such as the Rising Six, Logistics Officers Association and CGOC) to fill the trip slots. If interested in going, become an active member in these organizations. Each of these organizations promotes professional development and esprit de corps of our profession of arms.”