Tag Archives: Pentagon

My day at the Pentagon

Submitted by Deante Dowdell

Editor’s note – In the spirit of Take our Sons and Daughters to Work Day, Deante Dowdell, son of  Maj. Richelle Dowdell, Secretary of the Air Force Public Affairs Current Operations, spent April 22 at the Pentagon with his mom. Deante, who is 13, shares a unique take on his experience as documented below. We’re pleased to present our youngest blogger on Air Force Live.

100420-F-2270A-293I spent “Take Your Child to Work Day” with my mom. It was pretty cool, but it wouldn’t have been as cool if she didn’t work at the Pentagon. You see my mom works in Air Force Public Affairs which basically means she is the press for the Air Force. She takes care of publicizing big Air Force events, media coverage, and making sure that the big Air Force figures represent the best that they can be. Her job is pretty cool. She gets to go to cool places and events, and she gets to meet famous people like the person who sings that song that’s stuck in your head but can’t remember the name of.

Anyway, on “Bring Your Kid to Work Day” [April 22] my mom was initially going to take my sister but she wanted to go to the school where my dad works because she wanted to see her friends there, so my mom was stuck with me. Hey, I was okay with that because I like visiting the Pentagon. It’s so big and cool and complex and there is so much stuff packed into it. It’s a wonder the people fit in. Plus today was Earth Day so I was wondering if the Pentagon even celebrated Earth Day. So we jumped in the car (after we got some clothes on of course PJs aren’t formal at the Pentagon), grabbed a slugger from the commuter lot, hopped in the H.O.V. and headed off to the Pentagon.

So we get to the Pentagon, dropped off the slugger – whose name I don’t know – and checked in to the Pentagon. My mom took me into her office and proceeded to introduce me to every person in her office by name’s which I proceeded to forget but that’s okay we are all still friends.

After my formal and forgetful introductions, my mom and I made a breakfast and coffee run for the office – I guess it was her turn. We walked to one of the many and bigger food courts in the Pentagon. When we got there I knew I had a very tough decision ahead of me:  Which fast food restaurant should I choose to eat at? The BK?  Subway?  The place I’ve never heard of before in my life?   My goodness, the choices were nearly endless. I decided  to chose BK because in the end I knew I needed energy for today, though when it comes to most fast food companies that translates to sugar and fat so you know I had to pick the best option.( BK, you know I love you.)

We took the coffee and food back to the office and my mom got called to an important meeting. I could not go to so I waited at her desk. After two minutes my short attention span took over, and I tried to entertain myself. After about 10 minutes I had done everything I could in an office without breaking something and that in itself was becoming a temptation. Finally one of my mom’s co-workers wanted to take me to a tree-planting ceremony that was being held in the courtyard for Earth Day. She took me out there and on the way she explained how 40 other trees were being planted on Air Force bases around the world. So the camera man set us up for the best camera angles and lighting and other stuff. The important people gave important speeches and poured important dirt on the important tree – it was all very important. I was asked to pour some dirt on the important tree. I had my picture taken doing it; it was pretty cool to say the least.

The party didn’t stop after that for me and my mom. After a quick stop at the office she then took me to a session of media training for some guy who was probably important – he certainly looked the part and that’s what counts isn’t it?  Basically media training is where important  people in the military learn how to deal with that collective-minded press and paparazzi. When we got there she introduced me to all the camera men and women and the people behind the scenes. It was basically a mock press conference about the release of a new MRAP (mine-resistant, armor-protected vehicle) in Afghanistan. It went pretty good considering the reporters knew him and the subject inside and out. My mother has taught him well I guess.

After that we went back to my mom’s office to see what other exciting activities we had planned for the rest of our fun-filled day. These activities consisted of making a quick lunch run down to the Popeye’s in the food court mentioned earlier and watch my mom type on a computer for about 30 minutes. After a while, someone across the office asked my mom to assist with developing some talking points for the upcoming premier of the Iron Man 2 movie. I thought that meant that she was going to the premiere of the movie, so I asked her if I could come too. She then crushed and shattered my dreams by explaining that developing talking points of the event meant she didn’t go to it. (I am mad they changed the actor who played Rhodey in the first movie but will just see what the new guy does.)

The final test of all the knowledge I accumulated over my day as a child PA was a daunting one. One I doubted I would survive. It would push my limits both physically and mentally. After nearly completing this assignment I doubt I will look at anything the same way ever again. The labor was terrible and frightening but the fruit it produced is beautiful and satisfying. So what was this daunting task I am talking about? Well, you’re reading it.

Photo Caption: Thirteen-year-old Deante Dowdell, son of Maj. Richelle Dowdell, Secretary of the Air Force Public Affairs, shovels soil onto a Valley Forge American elm as part of “40 Trees in 40 Communities” April 22 at the Pentagon. (U.S. Air Force photo/Scott Ash)

British pipes and drums come to Pentagon

It’s not every day one can hear bagpipes. Sure, you can hear them at a Highland games or Scottish/Irish festival. Some people loathe bagpipes. Not me, I love listening to them; must be my Scottish ancestry. Sept. 25 was a special day for me.

The 1st Battalion Scots Guard Pipes and Drums Band from the British Army came to the Pentagon at lunchtime to perform a concert to celebrate the close relationship between both nations’ armed forces.

The unit’s performance is “an expression of admiration and appreciation of our alliance,” said British Army Lt. Col. William Swinton, a liaison officer in Strategic Plans and Policy Office of the Joint Staff.

“We came to (the District of Columbia) for a specific reason,” Colonel Swinton said, “to demonstrate the admiration the British military has for the U.S. military.”

Wow, the band did not disappoint. It had eight pipers, seven drummers and four sword dancers. Each song brought rousing applause from folks who had been eating their lunch in the courtyard or lured outside by the pipes and drums.

Their uniforms, precision and musicianship were amazing. It reminded me of the time I saw the Royal Marines and Black Watch in Chicago during their Bicentennial tour of America in 1976. One thought came to my mind. Their 20-minute performance was almost over and they still hadn’t played the traditional bagpipe anthem “Scotland the Brave.” Next to “Amazing Grace” (which they didn’t play), “Scotland the Brave” is my favorite bagpipe tune. Would they play it? Surely, they would. No sooner had I thought that when the drummers rolled and the pipers began playing that awe-inspiring song. The band next rolled into “God Bless America,” to demonstrate the camaraderie between the United States and United Kingdom. Perfect.

The unit is the oldest infantry battalion in the British Army, Colonel Swinton said. Each member is a soldier and not a permanent musician. They return Sept. 28 to their base at Catterick Garrison, North Yorkshire, England, to begin training for a 2010 deployment to Afghanistan. “These are front-line soldiers who will be fighting with U.S. Marines in Helmand (Province),” Colonel Swinton said.

Interviewing some band members afterwards was a bit difficult. I could blame it on the loud ambient noise in the courtyard café. But, in truth, my problem was with my inability to understand their Scottish accents. I especially had a hard time catching the spelling of the pipe major’s name. I eventually gave up and turned my notepad to him. He wrote out Brian Heriot. I was able to understand him when he talked about their month-long tour.

“The American crowd seems to love the bagpipes,” Sergeant Heriot said. “Everyone seems to have a Scottish ancestor.”

Thank you, 1st Battalion soldiers, for the show. Truly appreciated it. Stay safe while in Afghanistan.

Master Sgt. Stan Parker took some excellent shots of the performance. (British band performs in Pentagon courtyard). There is also a YouTube video of “Scotland the Brave” and “God Bless America” of their performance. (video here)

It’s 9/11

It’s the eighth anniversary of 9/11. I’m in the Pentagon. Worried? No. Saddened by this anniversary? Yes.

It’s hard to believe eight years have gone by. People always remember where they were and what they were doing when historic events happen. My parents’ generation remembers clearly where they were when they heard of President Kennedy’s assassination. For me, it’s 9/11. I remember exactly where I was when I heard the news.

I was stationed at Malmstrom Air Force Base, Montana. The base was in the midst of an exercise. I had the day shift for public affairs in the battle staff. The morning was quiet. People were getting up to speed, waiting for the scenarios to begin. CNN was playing on the big television screen with news of Ahmad Shah Massoud’s assassination in Afghanistan. No one was paying attention.

A breaking news alert came on stating a plane had struck one of the World Trade Center towers. I figured it was a small plane. When CNN showed live coverage of the smoke pouring out of a tower, I noticed how blue and clear the sky was. Thought to myself how could the pilot not see the building in front of him?

While watching the coverage, I noticed a small dark object come from the right of the screen. It moved rapidly towards the World Trade Center. Shortly afterwards, a fireball erupted from the tower. The second plane struck.

“This is no accident,” I said to the folks sitting next to me. Right in front of my eyes I was witnessing the worst terrorist attack on the United States. I went to my office and e-mailed some friends to say the World Trade Center had been struck by two aircraft. We needed to pray.

Returning to the battle staff, everyone was now riveted by the horrific events unfolding before us. When news came of the Pentagon being struck, we started thinking what’s next? I was two months away from taking a new assignment at the Pentagon to work on the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Public Affairs Office. A lieutenant colonel sitting in front of me – and who knew of my assignment – turned around and asked, “So, do you still want to go to the Pentagon?”

We were stunned when we saw a tower implode. The second tower imploded later. It was too hard to believe. What was happening?

The rest of the day was hectic. Media were calling the office. They wanted to know what the base’s response to the crisis was. I worked until late that night conducting interviews with Great Falls media. This was the first time I’d ever done on-camera interviews. Even a Canadian television outlet came down for a comment.

Two months later. I arrived in Washington and went to the Pentagon. The damaged section had been removed. The ugly gash looked like a cake with a piece cut out. People were coming to the Pentagon to pay their respects, many leaving flowers.

Eight years later, the damage to the Pentagon has been fixed. The memories remain.

This is Master Sgt. Russell Petcoff’s memories of when 9/11 happened.

Dispatch from a Pentagon Airman

Master Sergeant Russ Petcoff provided us with dispatches from Ali Base, Iraq. Now he’s back at the Pentagon and plans to share his insights from a local perspective. Here’s his first “Dispatch from a Pentagon Airman.”

Life in the Pentagon is definitely different from Ali Base, Iraq. It’s not nearly as hot…though it is more humid. The commute on Metro Rail is definitely longer than the 10-minute walk from my CHU (military lingo for Containerized Housing Unit, a.k.a. trailer) to the office. The greatest blessing is no ubiquitous dust and dust storms!

No longer being at Ali Base doesn’t necessarily mean the end of my “Dispatchs.” My job at Secretary of the Air Force Public Affairs Operations gives me the opportunity to see what is happening throughout the Air Force. Here’s what caught my eye.

Airmen to the rescue
Saw a story from Misawa Air Base, Japan, of eight Airmen rescuing a Japanese civilian from burning car that crashed into a home (see Misawa Airmen rescue Japanese citizen). The Airmen put into practice first aid training they learned.

The story by Staff Sgt. Phillip Butterfield, 35th Fighter Wing Public Affairs Office, Misawa AB, describes what the Airmen saw.

“When we arrived at the scene of the accident, we heard someone say, there’s a guy hurt out there,” said Airman 1st Class Aaron Lauer, a 35th Maintenance Operations Squadron production analyst. “I, and several others, jumped off the bus and ran over to him. He was lying a few feet from the car, and we knew we had to get this guy away from it before it exploded. The car was extremely hot, and I remember it was hard to breathe.”

After pulling the limp victim to safety, Tech. Sgt. Rory Stark, a 35th Civil Engineer Squadron explosive ordnance disposal technician, and Senior Airman Thomas Sullivan, a 35th Medical Support Squadron shipping section supervisor, along with five other Airmen, put their Air Force training into practice. Together they determined the full extent of his injuries and rendered the appropriate life-saving techniques.

Airman in the Afghan fight

The media is filled with stories of the military situation in Afghanistan. There are a lot of stories about Soldiers and Marines in the fight. However, there are Airmen on the ground in the fight as well. Living life in the Korengal valley tells the story of Soldiers coming under fire daily in an Afghan valley (hat tip to Army Sgt. Matthew Moeller, 5th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment). Calling in air support for them is Tech. Sgt. Joel McPherson, a joint terminal attack controller. The Airman brings in two F-15E Strike Eagles who dropped 500-pound bombs on the insurgents.

Airdogs
On to another type of Airman are Military Working Dogs (or would they be Airdogs?). Ever wonder what happens to them when their service is up or no longer required? People can adopt them. Officials outline adoption process for military working dogs explains the process of adopting “Airman Fido.” For people interested in adopting a former MWD, they can go to Adoption Information.

Cool photo
The coolest Air Force Photo of the Week (in my opinion) comes from Yokota Air Base, Japan. Osakabe Yasuo shot “Blaze of friendship” which captures a fireworks display from the 2009 Yokota AB Japanese-American Friendship Festival. Other photos from around the Air Force are at Air Force Week in Photos.

Walking 7,000 miles away
Despite being deployed, one Reservist from California didn’t keep her from her annual commitment to participate in the Walk for Breast Cancer in Los Angeles (Sergeant continues the ‘walk’ more than 7,000 miles away from home, hat tip to Staff Sgt. Daniel Martinez, 506th Air Expeditionary Group Public Affairs, for the story).

Master Sgt. Loretta Patino, 506th Expeditionary Logistics Readiness Squadron, organized a walk at Kirkuk Regional Air Base, Iraq. The Aug. 20 event attracted 150 Airmen and Soliders who raised $3,100.
“It’s very personal to me and it’s the least that I can do to try to give something back and do something in my friends’ memory,” Sergeant Patino said.

Great way to make your deployment even more meaningful, Sergeant Patino!

FOB-hopping chaplain
A Catholic chaplain traveling to forward operating bases to ensure Catholic service members can celebrate Mass offers one of the best quotes of the week: “We can (celebrate) Mass on the hood of a jeep if we need to. To me, there is no awkward place to perform Mass.”

Chaplain (Lt. Col.) Mark Rowan’s efforts is chronicled in Chaplain FOB hops, provides mass to isolated servicemembers (h/t to Senior Airman Jessica Lockoski, 506th Air Expeditionary Group Public Affairs, for her story).

Chaplain Rowan said men and women at some deployed locations go without Catholic Mass and confession for weeks at a time. “It’s wonderful for me to be able to minister to [deployed servicemembers]  … bring the church to them, and let them know they are not forgotten or abandoned by the church,” Chaplain Rowan said.