FORT CAMPBELL, Ky. – From the top of The Sabalauski Air Assault School’s rappel tower and down into the dirt at a firing range, 17 business and community leaders immersed themselves in Army life April 28 during the Nashville Leaders Tour.
Ralph Schulz, a Civilian Aide to the Secretary of the Army and president and CEO of the Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce, worked with Fort Campbell to organize the event and build relationships between the two communities.
“Our vision starts with the fact that we’re all part of an economic region,” Schulz said. “It’s the people and the business of the Army that make up a big part of what this region is, so we want people in Nashville to have as much familiarity with the post and to be as engaged, supportive and as benefitted by Fort Campbell as anybody in Clarksville.”
When local communities understand how the installation works, they are better prepared to assist Soldiers and Families, said Suzy Yates, Community Relations Officer, Fort Campbell Public Affairs Office.
“Many of our Soldiers live in the local communities,” Yates said. “Providing a day like today where community leaders can get a glimpse into life as a Soldier can provide invaluable perspective and generate ideas of how we can better support those who defend our freedom together.”
The group took advantage of several opportunities to learn from and interact with Soldiers during the tour that included visiting the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment, rappelling 34 feet at TSAAS, firing an M249 light machine gun and sitting in on a command brief outlining Fort Campbell’s daily operations and economic impact.
Each stop showcased Soldiers’ diverse skill sets, and attendees were encouraged to get involved with the Transition Assistance Program, or TAP, and hire those preparing to leave the Army.
“There are so many technical skill sets, so much leadership and so much value in a Soldier to the employers once they do make that decision to transition,” said Anne Fugate, TAP manager at Fort Campbell. “And it is exactly by making connections with opportunities that are outside the gate that we can do a better job here within our program.”
Fugate said approximately 5,000 Soldiers transition out of Fort Campbell each year, and roughly 27% plan to stay in the area. That means a large number of potential employees are available for hiring managers to consider.
“When you think of a Soldier in the Army coming to work for you, you probably think of the riflemen,” said Brig. Gen. Clair Gill, deputy commanding general-support, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault). “But we do anything that any organization would do – we’ve got our own cyber folks, we’ve got intelligence folks. Some of these skills are in pretty high demand.”
Nancy Youssef, chief business development officer for the nonprofit Soles4Souls, said she never realized how many job functions and skill sets were taught at Fort Campbell until she set foot on the installation.
“I was thrilled and ecstatic because I’d not been here before, and I really had no association with Fort Campbell,” Youssef said. “It was incredible. Every event was so well-structured, and the caliber of people here was amazing.”
Her favorite part of the tour was getting a closer look at the Night Stalkers’ footprint and their high-end aircraft. The unit also held a realistic demonstration on escaping a submerged helicopter at the Allison Aquatics School.
“I have an affinity for flight, so I felt a special connection,” Youssef said. “But I didn’t realize they were based here, that they had this many aircraft and that so much went into the technical aspect of what they do.”
John Scannapieco, the chair of law firm Baker Donelson’s global business team, also felt connected to Fort Campbell through his Family history. He said his father served in the 101st from approximately 1959-1963.
“We’d visited before, but just driving around, and I really wanted to see what it was all about because he talks about it all the time,” Scannapieco said. “I understand why he had so much pride in his service, especially his time here, and you can see that in all the Soldiers we met today.”
Firing an M249 was the highlight of the day for Scannapieco, but the tour gave him plenty of tales to share with his father.
“For me, it really was more about my dad,” he said. “Just coming here, seeing and listening to it all, now his stories make sense and I’ve got the context around them. I hope to bring him back up here someday.”
As tour attendees continue gaining that firsthand knowledge, Schulz expects to see a growing partnership between Nashville and Fort Campbell.
“We’re looking for people to understand Fort Campbell and the resource that it is, both in the talent it creates and the important relationships that need to exist in the community,” he said. “Those relationships lead to opportunities, not only for retiring Soldiers but for Nashville as a whole.”