On Thursday, Smith, president of the Davis Chamber of Commerce, gave Bountiful Breakfast Exchange Club members an overview of his week spent with special forces units in all five branches of the military last April.
What Smith said he came away with, was a life-changing experience in which he learned the U.S. military “is not so much about the equipment, but the people I met.”
Smith said he spent time with military personnel ranging from four-star generals and admirals to enlisted personnel. “Top to bottom, they are sharp people,” he said.
Because the military is now volunteer, people join the military already with their college degrees and wanting to serve the country.
And the nation’s military leaders are “very impressive. Any of these guys could run a Fortune 500 company,” Smith said.
Even the young recruits impressed him. “They’re the kind of young people you’d like to have in your neighborhood and dating your kids.”
Smith was particularly impressed with one 28-year-old Air Force Chief Master sergeant he met. Tony Travis was named in Time Magazine’s 100 most influential people. “He was symbolic of the caliber of people I met.”
Smith said Travis was a member of the Air Force Special Tactics team, stationed in Florida when the 7.0 magnitude earthquake hit Haiti on Jan. 12, 2010. Travis was among the first group into the country. What he found, Smith said, was a nation with no traffic control, and aid planes needing to reach the island nation.
He and other team members set up a card table and conducted air traffic control, enabling planes to take off and land every two minutes. Smith said. “His actions saved thousands of lives. He made a huge difference,” Smith said.
Smith said that while U.S. military personnel are skilled killers, “What we forget is the other missions they are involved in that are making a difference in the world.”
Smith was part of 30 people chosen to participate in the JCOC in the spring.About one-third of participants were women. All were influential people from across the country.
“They knew they would have the chance to rub shoulders with these young patriots,” Smith said.
Over the course of five days, Smith and the others, lived the life of a special forces team, getting up at the crack of dawn and going until 10 p.m., at five different bases in the southeastern United States.
“We slept where the troops slept, we ate MRE meals (Meals Ready to Eat), we went along on military maneuvers,” Smith said.