Air Force, community leaders participate in National Security Forum

  • Published
  • By Airman Alessandra N. Gamboa
  • 28th Bomb Wing Public Affairs
Four Black Hills community leaders were among those selected from across the country to take part in the National Security Forum at the Air War College in Maxwell Air Force Base, Ala., May 16 to 20.

Lia Green, Jim White, Rob Mudge and Jeff Carsrud, all from Rapid City, S.D., were selected to attend the forum designed to provide influential citizens an opportunity to engage leaders on Air Force security issues.

"I am humbled and honored to have been one of 120 community leaders nationwide chosen to participate, and voice my opinions to military leaders from around the world," said Mr. Mudge, RPM business owner. "We were treated as distinguished visitors - like generals guided around and escorted by colonels."

Throughout the forum, the participants divided into one of 16 seminar groups to discuss their opinions after various lectures delivered by military leaders on subjects about homeland security, including future security in a world of biological and nuclear weapons, strategies in Afghanistan, chemical warfare, a study of Egypt, strategic Air Force asset management, the effect of Global Economics on National Security, and cyber warfare. Secretary of the Air Force Michael Donley and Chief of Staff of the Air Force Gen. Norton Schwartz, were among those who addressed the group.

"From our individual seminar groups, we were able to say what we liked, disliked and thought was unfair about the information in the lecture," said Mr. Mudge, a local business owner. "We were strongly encouraged to express our viewpoints and in the process, we were able to better understand the challenges our military faces. As a leader in the community, I feel I am in a position where I can help to make a change where I notice that something isn't working or isn't right."

Mr. Mudge said the brief overview of military processes during his stay at the forum gave him a greater sense of what servicemembers go through in their daily lives while serving their country.

Mr. Mudge explained that his personal connection to the men and women in the military stems from having a son-in-law who served in the U.S. Marine Corps for 10 years prior to joining the Army National Guard, and having parents who worked at Ellsworth as civil service employees.

"This whole experience has definitely added to the appreciation I have always had for servicemembers," he said, adding that he tries to encourage others to share their thanks for all they do. "After all, we, as private citizens, would not be able to enjoy our freedoms and have fun without men and women who put their lives on the line."

Mrs. Green, who holds a current chair in the Rapid City Area Chamber of Commerce and owns five radio stations, said she not only learned more about the mission of the U.S. military during her first visit at the forum, but also gained a new level of respect for servicemembers.

"I learned a great deal during the forum, particularly about our involvement in Afghanistan," she said. "I have a great respect for all the bright, committed men and women who serve in our military. I would encourage other civic leaders who have the opportunity to take part in this phenomenal and educational event to do so."

Mr. White, a local businessman, chairman of the Rapid City Chamber of Commerce Military Affairs Committee of the Chamber of Commerce and honorary 28th Bomb Wing commander, also deemed the experience to be a phenomenal opportunity.

"The best part of the forum for me was the time I spent conversing with my classmates, who included higher echelon military officers, about topics that were important to me and to our country," Mr. White said. "All guests at the forum were free to discuss whatever issues or concerns we had and also encouraged to ask any questions we had about military operations. Because of the Ellsworth commander's foresight to invite local leaders to participate in this extremely great opportunity, I was able to learn a lot from the instructors, speakers and my interactions with others."

Mr. Mudge said this opportunity added to his search for ways he can make the city a better place, adding that he plans to use his recently acquired knowledge from the forum to enlighten those around him about the truths surrounding the military.

"So much of what is viewed on network news stations leans toward sensationalism with regards to our military," he said. "I would rather be told what happened, and be allowed to make up my own mind about it rather than have someone interpret it for me. After having the opportunity to speak directly with our military leaders, I realized the quotes used on the news are often different from what our leaders are actually saying."

Mr. Carsrud also described the forum as eye-opening and enlightening.

"It opened my eyes to how the military works, more in depth, and how it responds to threats," Mr. Carsrud said. "It made me feel more confident as I better realized how the military, 'has our back.' I also gained a better sense of how the military is actually proactive and not reactive as I feel the general public perceives it."

Among his realizations, Mr. Carsrud said he also learned how the Air Force maintains its assets to combat enemies through cyber warfare and how, contrary to popular belief, Air Force leadership takes time to carefully consider and weigh all options and digest differing viewpoints before making a decision on behalf of the best interest of the nation.

"I will never forget what I've learned and will use it to help broaden the perspectives of others who may never have the chance to actively interact and engage with our military commanders," he said. "This was an amazing opportunity to communicate and provide feedback to our military."

Mr. Carsrud said part of him wishes he had signed up for the military when he was younger, but that this was his way of giving back and serving his country.

"The most important part of not only this forum, but also of maintaining longstanding ties with the military is support for each other," he said. "I serve as a connection to the military community beyond the base gates. This connection goes both ways, and after participating in the forum, I've been able to gain a valuable look from within our military and provide the information to the local community."