Photo Courtesy of Andy Heidt / MTSU News
MTSU President Sidney A. McPhee and retired Lt. Gen. Keith M. Huber took part in a tandem parachute jump Tuesday after being invited to participate by the Golden Knights, the United States Army’s precision parachute demonstration team, due to MTSU’s previous and ongoing commitment to veterans.
At around 7 a.m., the participants were formally welcomed by the commander of the Nashville Recruiting Battalion, Lieutenant Colonel Kevin Polosky, and, by 10 a.m., the six groups that jumped were prepped for a 13,000-foot-high and 45-second freefall.
A group of three at a time were transported by a Twin Otter plane that ascended miles above the Clarksville Regional Airport. Each participant was attached to a member of the Golden Knights via a harness and fell from the plane at speeds of up to 120 miles per hour.
McPhee and Huber expressed their excitement just hours before their jump.
“I see this as an incredible opportunity. I began a bit nervous and concerned, but, now, I feel really at ease. And it will help me conquer one of my fears, which is heights,” McPhee said.
“I feel very privileged to participate in the event. I enjoy being around our soldiers again after spending most of my life serving. I feel at home with our soldiers,” Huber said.
Included in the six groups that were invited to jump were musicians, educators, pastors and media representatives.
“What we are looking for are individuals who can assist with community awareness…Anybody that’s in a pretty influential role that can assist with partnering with the army to spread our message,” said Aaron Martin, the operations sergeant major for the Nashville Recruiting Battalion.
In an information sheet sent to participants of the jump, the purpose of the tandem jump is stated as “to recognize individuals in the community who represent the Army Values and create lasting partnerships to support both our organizations.”
McPhee explained why the Golden Knights chose to honor the university specifically and what the service of veterans means on the MTSU campus.
“We start with the history…We build on that over the years to include integrating veterans and their families into the university community and environment through providing additional support that deals with and addresses the specific needs of veterans and their families,” McPhee said. “The fact that these individuals, men and women, have sacrificed, in some cases, their lives, their time, their energy to protect us clearly is enough reason for our university to build that kind of support.”
McPhee added that MTSU’s ROTC program is considered to be “one of the best” in the country and is one of the ways that the college gives back to students with military backgrounds.
“The university has a really strong history and tradition of not only partnering with the United States military but really providing a training and education for its personnel through our ROTC program,” McPhee said. “We have the distinction of having more generals in the United States military and Army than most schools who have ROTC programs. That means they excel when they graduate and are commissioned,” McPhee said.
McPhee described some of the ventures and projects that the university created to honor those individuals who have sacrificed due to their military service.
He stated that the school “started with” the memorial that stands in front of the Tom Jackson Building on campus that honors MTSU graduates who lost their lives serving in the military. Private money was raised to construct the monument.
McPhee also said that several MTSU faculty members came forward about 10 years ago to pioneer additional initiatives to support veterans on the campus.
“That led to a series of new programs and one of the largest and most comprehensive centers for support of veterans,” McPhee said.
The MTSU Charlie and Hazel Daniels Veterans and Military Family Center located in the Keathley University Center allows veterans and members of the military to transition into college life by assisting in areas such as finding the right G.I. Bill, selecting a major and classes and getting involved on campus. The center was named after musician Charlie Daniels who has donated over $70,000 to assist in its establishment.
Huber, who retired after 40 years of service in the United States Army, plays an integral part in providing these services to veterans and military members. He is the Senior Advisor for Veterans and Leadership Initiatives at MTSU and supplies McPhee with constant feedback regarding the initiatives and programs offered at MTSU to men and women who have served in the military.
Huber stated that he saw the invitation to jump as a great honor for himself and the veterans who represent MTSU.
“The offer by the Golden Knights is very significant to me. This offer is one of respect and appreciation for our student Veterans programs of support,” Huber said. “The opportunity to jump with these professions represents another challenge to conquer your apprehension at 13,000 feet and to simply do what is right to honor our Veterans. Our military understand that President McPhee is a true leader who takes action on their behalf in recognition and respect of their service and sacrifices. I am honored to participate at his side.”
The retired general explained how MTSU stands out among universities that offer programs for military students and families.
“Many academic campuses seek the title of ‘Vet Friendly’ as a slogan to attract future students. MTSU demonstrates a veteran and military family loyalty in a consistent and comprehensive manner to address their transition requirements,” Huber said.
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To contact News Editor Brinley Hineman, email firstname.lastname@example.org.