I feel quite fortunate to be living near the Eglin AFB area. This part of Florida is very dense in military, especially the Special Operations type of warfare. Here, we have Hurlburt Field with its Spectre Gunships, Combat Controllers, and other Air Force Special Operations. Duke Field has more Special Operations based there. The Navy EOD School, (where all service branches get their EOD training), is located here as well. Since 1950, or so, the Swamp Phase of Army Ranger School has been taught here at Camp Rudder. A few years ago, the 7th Special Forces Group (A), relocated to a new campus here as well. And, Eglin AFB itself, has increased its duties. It is training in the new JSF F-35, and developing new weapons and systems at the main base.
I found my way into an organization of patriots, whose mission is to give moral support to the Army Ranger Instructors and their families, at Camp Rudder. Outside of immediate family, this has proven to be the best calling of my life.
That I have been recognized for my time at the camp has been icing on the cake. These Ranger Instructors are the best of the best within the Ranger Community, and have all "Been there, Done that". Going to the Ranger Camp is my opportunity to "Walk among Heroes".
I love to attend their awards ceremonies, their change of command and responsibility events, but most of all I enjoy being able to interact with their family, social events. They know me, as do their wives and children. I love my dogs, and love being able to share the love of the dogs with these people.
I have been going out to the camp for 10 years now, and will do it as long as I am able, and they continue to invite me back.
One of the coolest times to be there are on Class "Day 5" and "Day 6". On Day 5 the Ranger Instructors make parachute jumps, to maintain proficiency, raise their jump numbers, and to maintain "jump status". After the jumps there is a party in their "bar", "The Gator Lounge", that shows how close they all are. Rangers, Wives, Children and Friends are all there for the good time. I take one or more of my dogs along and let the Rangers enjoy them while chuting up, and to the Lounge so the kids can play with them. On Day 6 the Students of the class go to the field for 12 days of very intense training and evaluation, to take them beyond their normal limits, expecting them to lead under less than good conditions. As the students get ready for either the helicopter assault or parachute exercise, they get to interact with my dogs, and to be shown that their service matters to a civilian.
If you have a military installation near you, thank those heroes for their service, and interact with them if you can. They will love it, and you will too.