October 29, 2012
JOINT BASE LEWIS-McCHORD, Wash. -- Nothing says teamwork like free falling from an airplane and parachuting into a group of encouraging colleagues.
That's why Master Sgt. Strate V. Flessas, a Kelso, Wash., native, and the Headquarters and Headquarters Battery, 17th Fires Brigade senior career counselor, hosted a skydiving event as part of a teambuilding exercise in Toledo Wash., Oct. 18.
It started when leadership with I Corps asked Flessas if he would be interested in hosting a luncheon for all the career counselors on Joint Base Lewis-McChord.
Career counselors, in charge of providing Soldiers with reenlistment options, often correspond through emails and phone calls to ensure Soldiers get the best retention options possible. Luncheons are an effective way for counselors to meet face-to-face and encourage teamwork, but Flessas wanted to do something that would be more memorable.
"I said, 'why do a typical luncheon? Let's do something that'll enhance teambuilding and cohesiveness,'" said Flessas. "I suggested skydiving and there was a lot of positive feedback, so that's what we went with."
Once the green light was lit, career counselors with 17th Fires Bde. started planning an event that career counselors, and other Soldiers, could bring their Families to.
"I wanted to make sure it was a family event. This gave us a great opportunity to have our children see what we do and have everybody kind of build that relationship between ourselves and our families." Flessas said.
Flessas is no novice to skydiving. He's jumped more than 20 times as an Airborne Ranger and skydived recreationally six times. He knew a place in the area that could provide the kind of experience his team was going for.
Skydive! Toledo, a recreational skydiving organization, served as an ideal venue. Soldiers and their Families could go on tandem jumps with a professional skydiver hooked to them. Those that preferred to stay on the ground set up a barbecue with drinks and food right on the landing zone so they could watch and cheer as their fellow Soldiers parachuted in.
Staff Sgt. Erich Turner, a Denver native, and career counselor with HHB, 17th Fires Bde., was one of the Soldiers excited to skydive for the first time.
"It was well worth the many years I've waited and wanted to do it," he said.
Being afforded the opportunity to fulfill a personal goal like skydiving was something Turner like to see more of. He said he looks forward to seeing teambuilding events that are a little more adventurous.
For Sgt. Laura Reid, a San Juan, Texas native, and HHB, 17th Fires Bde., paralegal noncommissioned officer, the skydiving event allowed her to do something she wouldn't have done on her own.
"I've talked about it, but to have someone actually organize it, well, I probably never would have otherwise," she said.
Reid experienced a moment that is Flessas' favorite part about skydiving--while some people love the thrill of free falling or the gliding sensation of parachuting, he loves something more inflective.
"I enjoy that push moment when you are standing at the door [of the plane] and you actually make the decision to jump," he said. "[You think], 'I know I'm afraid and I know I'm scared.' You overcome that fear and that, for me, at that second, makes it worth it," Flessas said.
Reid said she wasn't nervous until that exact moment.
"When they opened the door, that's when I was like 'okay you know what, this is my moment of regret, the point of no return,'" she said. "It was really weird how it happened, just feeling the wind, how fast it was going. I felt like I was just going to fly back and fly away."
When faced with that moment, Reid found confidence and determination and overcame her fear. She now has a skydiving experience under her belt.
After everyone was finished skydiving, the group packed up and headed their separate ways. Each person left with new connections and some left with new experiences.