July 14, 2010 - We packed our bags this morning and left Washington for Andrews Air Force Base. There were mixed feelings as we weren’t entirely sure what we’d be doing for three hours on the base, but feelings of awe quickly swept over AALP Class 13.
We were greeted by a very enthusiastic Master Sergeant Larry Perkins and an intimidating scent dog...we were told not to make any sudden movements. We were surprised to learn that Andrews Air Force Base is a village on its own, complete with a hospital, grocery store, bowling alley, churches, banks, and even 3 golf courses.
We visited the First Helicopter Squad where Class 13 members had the opportunity to sit in one of the helicopter s that are used to transport military personnel, secret service agents and even the President. Our next stop was the Air Medical Station Facility. This hospital is the largest and most sophisticated of its kind and is the first stop for wounded soldiers coming back into the U.S. The highlight of the trip was climbing down into the refuelling pit aboard a fuel tanker plane (it really is like you see in the movies – connecting one plane to another, mid air, refuelling). The operator says he gets so close to the other plane while refuelling that he can read the other pilot’s name badge!
Three hours flew by and we quickly learned the significance of Andrews Air Force Base to the United States based on its proximity to the capital, the presence of the Air Force One hanger, and being the first stop on home soil for wounded soldiers.
One of Sergeant Perkins key messages was the exact same message we continually heard from agriculture experts throughout the tour. This message is that communication and education of government and policy makers is key in ensuring that your voice is heard and that they understand the issues within your industry.
The rest of our day was spent travelling to New York State as we began our journey home. Inspired by sessions held over the past week, Class 13 continued to use this time constructively. A group of class mates highlighted the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA) as a Patron sponsor (those who donate $50,000+) in a fundraising moment. In 2010, OMAFRA sponsored the program with a donation of $96,000. We have come to realize that north and south of the border agriculture issues are the similar, and we’re grateful that OMAFRA is dedicated to the long term development of leaders in Ontario agriculture.
We ended our afternoon by sharing personal, touching and inspiring stories. We are now more than half way through our program and we continue to learn from each other, and grow together both as a class and individually. We realize that these will be the people that we can reach out to both personally and professionally for years to come.
Sarah Brown, Darlene Downey, Ben Sterk – AALP Class 13