I hope the summer has treated everyone well. I’ve found that during the summer months, communication from our classmates slows down but goes up in quality, and this set of notes is no exception.
I had the pleasure of catching up with Chris Whittaker at a Potomac River Chapter happy hour recently. He let me know that he had run into at least 3 of our BRs working out of the Pentagon in his short time there. It sounds to me like we need to have a photo from them sometime soon. Chris forwarded along an article he had published in the Army Sustainment Magazine on the techniques he used in working with Iraqi military leaders. The article was good food for thought on adjusting one’s methods when developing new relationships in unfamiliar territory (Google “Army sustainment partnership Whittaker” if you’re interested). The techniques are probably a natural thing for sales folks, but for us computer dorks it’s a novel concept…(so you mean I can’t just force the world to see things my way?)
Don Bowers sent me a great update about life in Bridgewater, VA where he and his wife Stacey are raising Nate (10) and Meredith (7). Young Mr. Bowers is a sportsman and loves fishing, and Miss Bowers dances and is into horses. Don had been working at the local hospital until about two years ago, and he’s now the Controller of Harrisonburg Electric Commission. Even though they’re close to Lexington, life is keeping them busy so they only get to VMI a couple of times a year. Don’s son is already expressing a favoritism for the Palms, which Don thinks might be trouble down the road.
Don recently spoke with Ken Markwalter, who just took a job in Pennsylvania somewhere between Philadelphia and Allentown. He started working there ahead of his family making the move from southwestern Virginia over the summer. Don also keeps in regular touch with Tim Whitt who’s in the Phoenix area. Tim is fond of calling Don in the winter to complain that it's cold in the shade in AZ. Charlie Early, Don’s ’87 dyke lives just a block down the street and they have kids in the same 5th grade class. Charlie just changed jobs and will be moving to Richmond soon. Thankfully Mr. Early didn't make Don do his laundry at all while he lived close by. Don was having a cookout with a nearby neighbor and friend recently, when his friend asked if by any chance he knew Greg Hatchett. Apparently the friend was a track coach for Greg in high school, and had a few good stories to share. Although Don missed the reunion, he stopped by on the Sunday following and was lucky enough to run into Mr. Hatchett to share the connection. Don was sorry for missing the reunion, but he wanted to extend his appreciation for everyone who left him phone messages & insults about living nearby and missing the weekend.
Dave Kaulfers sent me an update that Mike Doczi is setting the citizen-soldier example for us all, and has stepped up to the plate to serve as a civilian employee in Afghanistan with the Army Corps of Engineers. Mike was slotted to leave in August, and his family had a farewell party to send him off in style. Participating in the festivities were our BR’s Barry Johnson, Joe Pitman, and Hal Jones. Mike’s going to be over there for 13 months, and when he & I exchanged emails he was raring to go. Our guys are lucky to have you joining them sir.
Already over that direction, I heard from Tom West who’s been in Afghanistan since February, working as a civil affairs officer with the 1st Marine Division. He was mobilized from his reserve unit, the 3rd Civil Affairs Group. There are quiet a few VMI grads out here and the Institute is definitely being heard from. Mike Manning is the CO of 1st Battalion, 2nd Marines, and Todd Eckloff has recently arrived at the Division G-3 Future Operations Officer. Todd has recently completed his tour as the CO of 2nd Battalion, 5th Marines, which recently returned from a MEU deployment.
And just back from the desert, our BR Paul Kucik sent me a note that he had returned over the summer from a year-long deployment to Iraq. He’s now living at West Point, NY, where he teaches in the Systems Engineering Department. Paul said that USMA cadets are very similar to VMI cadets, in that they’re very loyal to each other; enthusiastic about the future and sometimes they wait until the last minute to do assignments. He’s really enjoying the teaching gig, but feels old when he realizes some of his students have already been company commanders.
Jim Hubbard dropped a note that he and the family had just moved to Chattanooga, TN. His previous employer was moving its trading operations to Houston, TX, but Jim was fortunate enough to secure a position trading energy with TVA. He said that it seems as if each move is getting him a little closer to Lexington. (South Florida to Atlanta to Tennessee) The Hubbard’s new home is on Signal Mountain, only 12 minutes off the interstate. Jim says he’d love to see anyone travelling through the area. His boys are doing great, and are keeping him busy coaching football and taking them fishing.
I also received a nice update from Bob Butler and a photo of a football game last fall where he ran into a number of our BRs. Bob had come up to the game with his 2 oldest boys, and happened upon a handful of our classmates tailgating and catching up. Bob let me know that he and his wife welcomed Joshua Nehemiah into the family in June. Joshua’s 3 bothers and 5 sisters could not have been happier for the new delivery.
It’s been a long time since I have communicated with Mike Roman, and I’m glad he touched base. The last time we connected might even have been back when he was at flight school in Florida right after graduation. Mike sent me a quick summary of life since then. He’s married a great lady named Heather from Pensacola, and he flew A-6E Intruders and the ES-3A Shadow in the Navy from 1990-2000. After the Navy Mike flew for American Airlines until 2003, and anticipating a furlough he went to work for a company called HRH in their Mobile, AL office for a couple of years (where he ran into Hunter Lyons). HRH moved him to Birmingham and the company was purchased by Willis, the third largest insurance brokerage firm in the world. Mike’s now the Senior Client Advocate, where he helps his clients manage risk and purchase insurance from the spectrum of insurers in the world. In what Mike says is more interesting than insurance, he and Heather have a son Jake (3) and are excitedly expecting a daughter in mid-October. They love living in Birmingham, and want to keep how great it is a secret.
At the end of last year Mike attended the Change of Command for Lt. Col. Larry "Gray" Riddick Jr., when he assumed command of the USAF’s 71st Special Operations Squadron. The 71st Special Operations Squadron (71 SOS) is part of the 58th Special Operations Wing at Kirtland Air Force Base, New Mexico. It operates CV-22 Osprey conducting special operations flying training. Gray assumes his command following a decorated career flying the MH-53 Pave Low for the U.S. Air Force's Special Operations Forces which included combat operations. In attendance were Lt. Col. Larry Riddick Sr., United States Army, Retired, along with his wife Patricia, Gray's sister Gail and her husband Mark, and Gray's wife April and their three lovely daughters, Sarah (7), Sydney (5), and Savannah (2).
John Hahn left me a message one evening around the time late study was ending (I think it was the first time he’s ever been up that late). I spoke with him the next day and it turned out he was just finishing up 40 days in the Gulf of Mexico helping with the oil spill there. As he’s known during daylight hours, LCDR Hahn was assigned to Forward Operating Branch (FOB) Lafourche as Branch Director ISO Deepwater Horizon, where he was responsible for helping coordinate the efforts of more than 1,200 personnel across numerous Federal, local, and private agencies. As part of his duties he ran a skeleton crew out of an alternate Emergency Operation Center (EOC) location, conducting final inspections for storm condition and security of all operating areas, then ordered personnel and equipment mobilization for continuity of operations once roads were deemed clear. I pushed him for details on what was going on down there and he forwarded some tidbits about his specific tasks. Based upon what I’ve read, John’s initiative, flexibility, perseverance, and devotion to duty were highly commended by the folks down south. Sounds like a VMI guy to me.
Gents, I want to say thanks for the generosity everyone showed with our reunion fundraising effort, especially in light of the current economic climate. From preliminary numbers, I believe we surpassed our prior year total by almost a 50% and our giving was more than every class after 1986, with only one exception. When I get details about what is being applied to our class scholarships, I’ll share that detail. Thank you for a great showing.
At the reunion I announced that I would be looking for volunteers who might be interested in replacing me as class agent because I have started school again, and will be unable to give the class the full attention you guys deserve. A handful of BRs said that they’d be interested, and I conferred with the EVP of the Alumni Association (Adam Volant ‘88) and several of our classmates for advice on the most appropriate selection method, as any of the volunteers would have been great for the job. All other things being equal, selecting someone who was already actively involved in VMI and class activities was the differentiator. I’m happy to say that Rob Clark has stepped up to the plate, and he’ll have the pleasure of being your new Class Agent. Rob can be reached at 612-802-7484 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Gentlemen, it has been an honor to serve the class for the last 7 years. Getting to maintain connections with everyone brought me closer to many of you, and helped make me even more of a VMI diehard. As I said at the reunion, there’s nothing like being in a room with a couple of hundred guys that you know you can trust and depend upon. There’s not much of that in the world today.
Please keep in touch gentlemen, and thanks for everyone’s support.
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Last Updated: November 22, 2010
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