Army Reserve ambassador visits Benning
July 17, 2013
By Nathan Deen
FORT BENNING, Ga., (July 17, 2013) -- When a neighbor became the victim of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, it ignited a passion within Boston-based sportscaster Ted Sarandis.
The neighbor's name was Kathleen Nicosia, Sarandis said, and that event sparked his ambition to promote the American Soldier.
"I felt a personal sense of violation," Sarandis said.
Sarandis, who serves as the U.S. Army Reserve ambassador for the state of Massachusetts, paid a visit to Fort Benning July 7-10 and got a little taste of everything the Maneuver Center of Excellence has to offer -- from observing Infantry Soldiers conducting advanced rifle marksmanship to a tour of the facilities on Harmony Church.
He was here on the invitation of Maj. Gen. H. R. McMaster, Fort Benning's commanding general, he said.
"I came to Fort Benning for my summer vacation," Sarandis said. "I'm down here on my own initiative and my own dollar.
"My No. 1 mission for the trip is to be able to tell the American people about the phenomenal things our Soldiers are doing."
Sarandis was appointed the Army Reserve's ambassador in 2006 by its chief of staff, Lt. Gen. Jack C. Stultz, and has since devoted much of his free time to raising Army awareness and advocating for military personnel and their Families.
Currently a freelance sportscaster, Sarandis was the voice of the Boston College basketball for 15 seasons and hosted his own sports radio show for Boston-based stations WEEI and 98.5 The Sports Hub. Aside from discussing Boston sports, Sarandis has used his radio influence to form a bridge between the military and the people of Massachusetts.
"I want to encourage more civilians to get more involved," Sarandis said. "I think every day, 'What else can I do to raise awareness for the Army?'
"It's really a challenge in Northeast states that have a very small active-duty footprint to tell people about the remarkable things that are being done in the United State Army."
As a voice of Boston sports, the terrorist attacks at the Boston Marathon on April 15 hit even closer to home with Sarandis, who was attending the Patriots' Day Parade in Lexington, Mass, at the time. As ambassador, Sarandis said an event like that can highlight the importance of the Army Reserve.
"The last initiative Lt. Gen. Stultz put forward at the strategic level was he went through Gen. Odierno and briefed congress about the ability to get the Army Reserve integrated into the Defense Support of Civil Authorities," Sarandis said. "Lt. Gen. Stultz lives in Florida and he said after all the hurricanes, 'We have all these Army Reserve units in Florida. Why do we have to wait to get help from the 82nd Airborne? Why not have Army Reserve medical and logistic units in Florida?' They should be able to respond to a civil emergency immediately, rather than waiting to get an active-duty unit involved through all the procedures.
"Now legislation has passed (National Defense Authorization Act, December 2011) so that Army Reserve units in all 50 states can respond immediately to support the National Guard and the governors in a civil emergency. There were some Army Reserve units who volunteered to get involved in the April 15 attack. I don't believe they were formally called up, but they were prepared to do so. And we did have a number of Army Reserve doctors … working in hospitals in Boston and treating the victims of the Boston Marathon attack."
Sarandis said 12 of those Reserve Soldiers have since been awarded an Army Commendation Medal for their heroics on April 15.
During his visit to Fort Benning, Sarandis also visited the 98th Division Initial Entry Training, an Army Reserve Unit that trains drill sergeants, the Warrior Transition Battalion and the Ranger Training Brigade. The most memorable Soldier Sarandis met was Sgt. 1st Class Michael Ferguson, an instructor with RTB, he said.
Sarandis said he was inspired by Ferguson's story of balancing his duties of being a Soldier with earning a bachelor's degree (now going for a master's at San Diego State), sometimes getting only one or two hours of sleep per night.
"He's one of the most remarkable and outstanding Soldiers I've ever met," Sarandis said. "He epitomizes the Army values."
Sarandis also visited the 75th Ranger Regiment and made two jumps from a 34-foot tower at the Airborne School.
"I was proud to perform two jumps from the 34-foot tower at Airborne School," he said. "The cadre agreed that at age 57, I was the oldest to jump that they could remember."
Sarandis said one of the biggest takeaways from his visit was seeing the combined arms effort of the MCoE firsthand.
"It was a brilliant concept to bring all these elements together and train the exact same way that we fight," he said. "That is huge."