CLARKSVILLE, Tenn. — Middle Tennessee State University President Sidney A. McPhee and retired Lt. Gen. Keith M. Huber, a key university adviser on student veteran services, have experienced many of life’s challenges.
They encountered a literal leap of faith Tuesday, April 25, as they jumped with members of the U.S. Army Golden Knights parachute demonstration team at the Clarksville-Montgomery County Regional Airport.
MTSU sophomore Andrew Wigdor, McPhee and Huber were invited to participate because of MTSU’s commitment to student veterans, the opening of the Charlie and Hazel Daniels Veterans and Military Family Center and a recent expansion into career placement.
The Golden Knights, trying to bring awareness to Army career opportunities, invited McPhee, Huber and others from across the region to participate in what would be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for many.
“I can’t describe the feeling,” said McPhee, still noting the adrenaline rush of free falling 120 mph from 13,000 to 4,500 feet before his parachute opened.
“There was nothing like it that I have ever experienced in my life.”
Referring to the altitude they would encounter, the president jokingly shared before the jump that he “gets nervous being on the second floor.” He gave a thumbs-up and huge smile as he passed a military member post-jump, then told someone about to take the leap, “Be ready for the thrill of your life.”
Huber, a Special Forces veteran as an infantryman and Green Beret, said the tandem jump “was incredible. It was such a beautiful view of the countryside. It was great being around professionals again. I miss being a soldier.”
Observing the retired lieutenant general’s jump were his wife, Shelly, and daughter, Alexis, 10.
Wigdor, a multimedia journalism major and Sidelines assistant editor from Maryville, Tennessee, described his jump as “the craziest experience I’ve ever had.”
“It was amazing,” Wigdor added. “The least favorite part for me was the free fall. It was still fun, but there was a lot of pressure I felt in my head. It was hard to breathe. But after the parachute opened, it was like a dream.”
MTSU alumnus Brandon Heath (Class of 2003), a university studies major who is a contemporary Christian recording artist, jumped with the first group after the early morning fog lifted.
“It was incredible,” Heath said. “Besides the G-forces that took my breath away, if you’re going to skydive, you want a Golden Knight along with you. They make it safe and a whole lot of fun.”
The groups flew in a de Havilland Canada DHC-6 Twin Otter plane with twin turbo-prop engines that came on board in 2013 and bears the name of former U.S. President George H.W. Bush on the pilot’s door.
Austin Peay State University President Alisa White, entertainers from past seasons of “The Voice” and “American Idol,” a wildlife biologist, state Sen. Richard Briggs of Knoxville and others participated in the second day of four scheduled days of tandem jumps.
“You are the spokesmen for the Army. You help us tell the Army story,” Col. Wayne Hertel, commander of the 3rd Recruiting Brigade at Fort Knox, Kentucky, told the groups.
“You help young men and women know that the Army is not the last resort, and it’s a great opportunity to serve their country.”
For more information about the Daniels Center and its student-veterans services, visit www.mtsu.edu/military.
— Randy Weiler (Randy.Weiler@mtsu.edu)
April 21, 2017
Army honors MTSU’s McPhee, Huber with invitation to jump with Golden Knights
CLARKSVILLE, Tenn. — The Army’s Golden Knights precision parachute team will honor MTSU’s commitment to student veterans on Tuesday, April 25, by inviting President Sidney A. McPhee and retired Lt. Gen. Keith M. Huber to join them for a tandem parachute jump.
The recognition comes for MTSU’s substantial support efforts for student-veterans, the 2016 opening of the Charlie and Hazel Daniels Veterans and Military Family Center and its recent expansion into career placement.
It will be the first parachute jump for McPhee and the first free-fall jump for Huber, the university’s senior adviser for veterans and leadership initiatives. The administrators, each paired with a Golden Knights team member, will descend over Outlaw Field in Clarksville.
A Special Forces veteran with 38 years as an infantryman and a Green Beret, Huber earned his jump wings in hundreds of tethered descents, but he’s never conducted military free-fall jumps nor been involved in sport parachuting.
Former President George H.W. Bush jumped with the Golden Knights three times, most recently when he celebrated his 90th birthday in 2014.
U.S. Army Recruiting Battalion spokesman Lee Elder said the precision parachute team, which is visiting the Nashville area for the first time since 2004, hopes to draw awareness to career opportunities in the Army.
“We are truly honored that President McPhee and General Huber are making such a major investment of their time to participate with the Golden Knights,” Elder said.
“It’s typical of the support that MTSU has given our recruiting efforts for the regular Army and Army Reserve over the years. They’ve always gone all-out to help us in a number of endeavors, and this is just the latest example.”
McPhee said it was difficult to turn down an invitation offered by the Golden Knights, especially since Huber personally delivered it to him.
“The record speed in which we built and opened the Daniels Center shows that it’s hard to say no to General Huber,” McPhee said. “How could I refuse this?”
McPhee said while he appreciates the Army’s nod toward MTSU’s efforts to attract, retain and graduate veterans, the true honor goes to those who serve.
“We at MTSU want to do right by to those who gave so much to our nation,” he said.
Huber said the offer to jump with the Golden Knights “is one of respect and appreciation for our programs.”
“Many academic campuses seek the title of ‘Vet Friendly’ as a slogan to attract future students,” he said, “but MTSU demonstrates a veteran and military family loyalty in a consistent and comprehensive manner.”
Huber said he was “honored to participate” alongside McPhee, adding that “represents another challenge to conquer your apprehension at 13,000 feet and to simply do what is right to honor our veterans.”
For more information about the Daniels center, visit www.mtsu.edu/military.
— Andrew Oppmann (firstname.lastname@example.org)