LEAD757 Class of 2023 Military Day!
The Hampton Roads Chamber’s LEAD757 Class of 2023 recently had the ultimate Military Day! As one of their scheduled leadership program days through their LEAD757 year, the class had the opportunity to learn firsthand, the impact that the military has on our region.
Let’s get a glimpse into their day through this recap by one of the members of the Class of 2023 who happens to also be the Marketing & Communications Vice President for the Chamber, Lauren Roberts Carter. Here’s Lauren’s recap of this exciting day in her own words:
Top Gun at NAS Oceana
The Military Day was an absolute experience! And I mean, experience from start to finish! We began the day at Naval Air Station Oceana (NAS). There, we had the opportunity to hear directly from Executive Officer, Captain Josh Appezzato. Captain Appezzato did a fantastic job welcoming us to NAS Oceana and explaining the importance of this master jet base and its overall impact on our region.
From there, Rick Dwyer, Executive Director of the Hampton Roads Military and Federal Facilities Alliance briefed us on the many military installations across our region. To be honest, several of these were news to me. And from the ones I was aware of, I learned so much more about their impact on the region. As someone who is a transplant to Hampton Roads from a non-military area, I knew the impact was great, but I truly did not realize quite the massive role our military plays in the area-talk about an eye-opener!
The next part of our NAS tour and experience spoke to my TOP GUN obsession! It was so cool! We broke into groups and had the chance to tour not only the VFA 106 Strike Fighter Squadron facilities but the areas where the jets are worked on by skilled mechanics and engineers getting up close to a million-dollar piece of military might!
Taking a class photo with a jet was pretty cool but learning about the technology that the pilots wear within their headgear was mind-blowing! Our phenomenal tour guide, a fighter pilot from the squadron showed us the actual helmet and tech he uses while flying his aircraft. I wish I could better explain exactly how the tech worked because it was so interesting but also so high-tech that I imagine needing an entire class session just on how to operate it. So, we will just leave it with, the fighter pilot tech being one the highlights I learned during this incredible day!
The tour of NAS Oceana alone would have been an amazing experience, but the day was just getting started! We traveled from the beach to Norfolk next and there, the experiences just kept on coming.
Off To Naval Station Norfolk
First up, we had the chance to step on board an aircraft carrier! What! Not a lot of civilians who do not work within this industry can say that have done this. The Class of 2023 now can! And it was not just any aircraft carrier that we toured, it was the USS Gerald R. Ford, the newest class of aircraft carriers that was recently built at our very own Huntington Ingalls Newport News Shipbuilding. I may know a little bit more about this topic because I am the proud wife of an engineer who actually worked on this specific ship for several years performing the seas trials on board as well-definitely a little full circle moment for me to step onboard something that he helped create in defense of our great country!
Anyway, back to the ship! We toured the anchor room-it was massive! It really is a challenge to try to describe the scale of something as large as an aircraft carrier. It truly is a floating city within itself so stepping foot on it knowing what it is capable of and built to do was an exceptional opportunity. I have to say though that my favorite part was going up to the flight deck. For as humongous as the ship is, that landing area for the fighter jets seemed awfully short and really tied together for me, what we learned from the fighter squadron at NAS Oceana. Hats off to those fighter pilots and the entire crew for the dangerous yet impressive job they do every day to protect us!
So if it wasn’t experience enough to tour a master jet base and then a new aircraft carrier right before it goes out on deployment, there was more to do! For anyone who has participated in LEAD757 or for anyone who will in the future, you will quickly learn that they are all about making sure you get a full experience-you will be tired but oh how it will be a fulfilling day!
The USS Albany
So, this next experience blew my mind! I also gave myself a little pat on the back at this point for not being too afraid to do what I did next-climb on board a partially submerged submarine!
Yes, I said submarine! I, a girl from land-locked Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, can now say that I have been on a sub. My new fun fact that I will be sharing from now on!
And by climbed, I literally mean climbed. To board the submarine, we first walked on top of it across the scaffolding right to the porthole and climbed inside. To give you a visual, image climbing inside a roadway sewer drain from the top down. That’s what it was like to get ourselves onboard this amazing piece of naval defense.
But for real, the submarine was an insanely awesome experience, and I am so grateful that our class had the opportunity to do it. In fact, our class was the first to have this major experience and one that we will surely not forget. At least, I know I won’t, and I will probably be talking about it for years to come!
The submarine we toured was the USS Albany and it holds approximately 130 service members. We were able to see everything from the control room to the torpedo bay as well as the tiny accommodations for those who serve onboard. Even the kitchen made me wonder how these brave men (no women serve onboard this particular submarine) do this for months at a time.
Now, I am not a tall person being only 5’4 but at that and I found the walkways to be quite low and awfully narrow. For some of my taller classmates, it was ducking the entire way as we navigated our way about this surprisingly large watercraft.
I’d have to say that my biggest takeaway from touring the USS Albany was how much newfound respect I have for the men and women whom serve onboard a sub. I can most definitely tell you that I would last all but one day-if that!
What A Day!
In all, the LEAD757 Military Day was one for the books! I absolutely loved the entire day and experiences that I had. I can also 100% say that I would not have had these opportunities had it not been for LEAD757, a program of the Hampton Roads Chamber. It is because of the reputation of this great leadership program, those who organize it (shout out to Michele and Sylvia) and the connections of the Chamber that we can access these unbelievable experiences that not many get to do.
Again, I am so grateful to be one of the lucky ones that had the chance to see our great military from behind the scenes. Though I have always had the utmost respect for the job they do and the sacrifices they make, I can share that I now see it in a whole new light that I would not have had the chance to do had it not been for this experience.
I want to thank LEAD757 for this amazing experience and thank the Chamber for allowing me the opportunity to spend the day with my classmates sharing in these unique opportunities! It is going to be hard to top the Military Day, but I am already looking forward to our May program which is sure to be another adventure and great learning experience!
Follow LEAD757 on social media to see more scenes from this exciting day and our program this year!