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Everyday Lessons To Be Learned at Pope

  • Published
  • By 2nd Lt. Chris Hoyler
  • 43rd Airlift Wing Public Affairs
I remember it like it was yesterday, because, for all intents and purposes, it was. 

In February 2007 I was in the process of completing my final semester as an ROTC cadet at the University of Central Florida when our detachment commander, Col. William Palmby, called me into his office to inform me of my first duty assignment. 

I can't say I didn't care, but I received my top career field choice and while I had my fingers crossed for an assignment in the Washington, D.C area, I was prepared for anything. 

"You're going to Pope." 

My first thought, like I'm sure it was for all the new airmen and lieutenants here,
was "What, and where, is Pope?" I quickly went back to our cadet lounge to tell some
people about it. 

A freshman cadet who was prior enlisted sprung up and said "I was at 'No Hope Pope' for three years, you're going to hate it." 

And that was my introduction to Pope. 

There wasn't much to deter that thought over the next several months, and it got even worse when I met a newly-commissioned officer who graduated from Fayetteville State University and said "I'm sorry" when I said where my first assignment was. 

I was down about everything as I drove here from Florida in June. I spent the first couple of nights here in my hotel room downtown, counting down the days until I left for tech school, and I kept that attitude until I heard Col. John McDonald, our vice wing commander, directly address all of the complaints I had heard about how lame Pope is in the newcomer's briefing. 

But I'll spare you that same old talk about how much there is to do in Fayetteville and how great the area is. The bottom line is that if you can't find something to do here, you
probably aren't trying hard enough. 

What I really want to stress is how many opportunities there are at Pope to improve yourself as Airmen. 

I'm closing in on my first year on active duty, and after spending almost a third of
that time in the classroom between the Defense Information School and the Air and Space Basic Course, I've come to realize that the information and lessons taught in technical and professional development schools, as important as they are, pale in comparison to the ones learned every day interacting with the people I come in contact with here at Pope, Fort Bragg and throughout the Fayetteville community. 

That's the best advice I can provide to any new Airmen struggling to find their niche at Pope: learn. Whether it is a general officer or brand new enlisted troop, a civilian or a contractor, active duty, reserve or retired, Air Force, Army, Navy or Marines, learn something from every personal interaction you have. Being in such a diverse and extremely large military community affords us this opportunity. 

Maybe its because I'm in public affairs and it's such a small career field, but I'm always surprised at how little people know about my job whenever I go out to do a story or talk to someone from one of our sister services. I can't imagine it being much different for anyone else; if it's not in your job's purview, why stress about it? 

That's the worst attitude to have and a complete waste of the opportunity we have here. Pope and Fort Bragg are arguably the center of today's U.S. military; a failure to learn about what we do here everyday is a failure to learn about history as it happens. 

It isn't hard. Next time you are getting ready to eat at the Kitty Hawk Dining Facility or the Pope Club and you don't recognize the squadron patch on a fellow Airman's uniform, ask them about it. The next time you are waiting in line for 20 minutes at one of Fort Bragg's commissaries or exchanges, talk to the Army Soldier in front of you about their job or their most recent deployment. Maybe you see a Marine at the fitness center. 

Instead of wondering why they're here, ask them. Odds are they have a pretty interesting reason and a story to go with it.