BCC Luncheon discusses ways to close gap between military, communities

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Hannah Bean
  • 14th Flying Training Wing Public Affairs
The Base Community Council met for their quarterly luncheon Jan. 23, at the Lion Hills Center in Columbus, Mississippi.

The organization introduced retired Air force Col. Jay Fisher, former 14th Flying Training Wing vice commander, as the guest speaker who first provided some insight to his experiences in the military.

The BCC is an organization dedicated to connecting the community with Columbus AFB in order to help Airmen feel more at home. The organization has members from multiple backgrounds and industries, who enable different perspectives on business ideas and partnerships with the base.

Fisher, who served 25 years in the Air Force and now works with Renasant Bank in Starkville, Mississippi, furthered his discussion through speaking on the disconnect between the military and the civilian world.

“I believe our greatest threat that we have now is from an increasing gap between the public and our armed forces members who served,” Fisher said. “Today, I hope to define that gap for you and spur you into action to take upon yourself to join me and others who are passionate about seeing this gap between the general public and our military services close.”

Fisher believed that the current generation of adults in America has lost touch with our armed services, not by anything they have done intentionally, but as a result of several factors.

“This is not some idea that I came up with or discovered,” Fisher said. “This is a well-documented challenge that has been written about, studied and hypothesized.”

Fisher began pointing out some of the several different generations experiences’ throughout the years.

Anyone born before April 20, 1957 would have been 18 years old, essentially the youngest age to be eligible to serve, which is the last recognized day of the Vietnam War. Those born even further before 1957 were most likely a part of the Selective Service process better known as “the Draft”. Anyone born in the timeline between 1957 and Jan. 20, 1973, were a part of the Gulf War generations, and those born after 1973 were raised in the Post-9/11 conflict timeframe.

Today, there are roughly 1.3 million people serving on active duty of all services- Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines In 1975, there were 2.1 million people on active duty, at the end of the Vietnam conflict. In 1970, there were over 3 million people serving on active duty and in 1991, during the Gulf War period, there was 1.9 million.

“Just by sheer mathematics, by the number of people serving, you have almost less than half of those who served in 1970,” Fisher said. “The possibility that you personally know someone who has served is statistically improbably with less than half of 1% of all Americans currently serving.”

After discussing the statistics, Fisher showed two slides that he believes has most affected the connection. The first slide showed photos of some celebrities, while the second slide show photos of Marine Corps Cpl. Kyle Carpenter and Air Force Master Sgt. John Chapman.

Carpenter is a medically retired Marine who received the Medal of Honor for his actions in Marjah, Helmand Province, Afghanistan, in 2010. When a hand grenade landed beside him and a fellow Marine in their lookout post, Carpenter, without hesitation, lunged toward the explosive to shield his friend from the blast.

Chapman was a combat controller in the Air Force who was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions in the Battle of Takur Ghar during the War in Afghanistan.

“Sergeant Chapman is the first Air Force Airman to receive the Medal of Honor since the Vietnam War,” Fisher said. “Corporal Carpenter is the youngest living recipient of the Medal of Honor- he was only 21 years old when he was injured and it almost ended his life.”

Fisher furthered, speaking that the American society has lost the ability to relate to heroes like Carpenter and Chapman.

“It doesn’t mean that we are bad people and these aren’t bad things in and of itself. We just don’t spend enough time supporting and embracing our service culture and the hundreds of thousands who protect us every day, many of whom have sacrificed enormously for all of our peace of mind,” He said. We have become a society detached from the men and women who serve us.”

Fisher assured that his intention was not to point fingers or accuse anyone, noting that he is just as interested in his favorite sports team, alma mater, university, or political figures as the next person.

“Today I am hoping we can do something about it,” he said. “Heroes are all around us so what can we do to connect with them? How can we honor the sacrifices they have made? My plea for us is to start to have this serious conversation about how we can close this gap between those who served and those who don’t. The difficult question this raises is how are we going to do it?”

After Fisher showcased a video on sacrifice in the Air Force, Col. Samantha Weeks, 14th Flying Training Wing commander, delivered closing remarks and shared her appreciation for the connection between the base and the local community.

Weeks said the video did a great job of portraying how the Air Force recruits Airmen, but retains families.

“Really, we retain each and every one of you who puts forth a little bit of effort to understand who we are,” Weeks said.

Weeks thanked Fisher for his passion on the topic at hand for sharing it with other people who have a passion for service and intents to develop ways to close that gap across our nation.

“It is growing and it is paramount that we figure out ways to make that an invisible gap and something that really becomes stronger over time,” Weeks said.