It’s Thursday night, and I’m sitting in my hotel in San Angelo, Texas writing this after speaking to the Tom Green County GOP Reagan dinner. It was a fantastic evening with some great folks. I was in San Angelo three summers ago, in 2013, when I was on the Kyle Petty Charity Ride Across America and we had a stop here. This is a lovely place, the Concho River valley. And this is my second week out here in West Texas, as last week I was in Amarillo. And in the last week in April, I’ll be heading out this way on my motorcycle to join up with the Kyle Petty ride in El Paso, spending the night in Midland.
But what was really special about my day in San Angelo was my visit to Goodfellow Airforce Base. Goodfellow has been around for some 75 years and it started as a fighter training base. It’s now home to the Air Education and Training Command, 17th Training Wing. It’s the training base for ISR (Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance) Airmen, Soldiers, and Marines as well as the Department of Defense training base and headquarters for firefighter training — all Airmen, Soldiers, Sailors, and Marines.
I had a superb one-on-one command visit with COL Michael L. Downs and Senior Enlisted leader Command Chief Master Sergeant JoAnne S. Bass — who by the way is married to a former 82nd Airborne paratrooper! We had a fantastic discussion about their training focus and how they’re preparing young men and women for cutting edge intel gathering against Islamic terrorists. They’re also involved in international training of allies which is vital on this present battlefield
What was apparent was their pride in the troops assigned to Goodfellow AB and the quality of the men and women serving our nation. We discussed the impact of deployments which COL Downs realizes provides his instructors a great opportunity to gain practical experience and makes them better instructors post operational support. Command CMSgt Bass stressed quality of life support as I shared with her the thoughts of some on Capitol Hill to close commissary and Base Exchange services, or move to privatization. She thoroughly emphasized the importance of the military community and how vital it is that promise should not be broken.
I had a drive tour of the ISR school and the Firefigther Academy — impressive. The base is orderly and well maintained. Sadly, why is it we have cities where Americans have little to no pride, throwing trash wherever?
What I saw at Goodfellow AB was pride and discipline in those in uniform as they walked from classroom facility, to their barracks, and in the chow hall. I’m sorry, just can’t refer to it as a dining facility – it sounds, well, elitist. I did miss the stern eyes and barking of the Mess Sergeant, but the service in the chow hall and the food was nice.
I left Goodfellow AB and realized what I missed the most about being retired: the troops. Watching their fit and strong comportment, their evident discipline, and knowing their commitment just let’s you know the torch of guardians of our Republic is being carried with honor and integrity. We may have issues with upper level military leadership and the civilian leadership, which supposedly conducts oversight of our military. But one thing remains after my visit to Goodfellow AB. The next generation of American Warriors is ready to assume their position manning a post on freedom’s rampart.
And the folks of San Angelo Texas are proud to have the Airmen, Soldiers, Sailors, and Marines in their community. I want to send a special salute to COL Downs and Command CMSgt Bass who are leading a first class base and ensuring this Nation remains the land of the free, because they’re training the greatest asset of the home of the brave — our sons and daughters!