Tag Archives: BRC

Recruiting Mississippi Style

Tuesday – October 26

I am definitely lucky to be a Space Camp recruiter.  This week, I recruited at Delta State, my school and home of the Fighting Okra. Unlike my trips to Arizona, each year that I visit Mississippi, I get to take a new recruiting pal with me. This trip is a chance for me to show off my home state and places that I am so proud of.  This trip to the Delta has topped all other recruiting trips. Hopefully, we will have lots of great staff from this visit to Mississippi.

We started off on Tuesday with a stop in Winona for lunch with my parents at the Mexican restaurant. Yes, you don’t have to call it by its real name when it is the only Mexican restaurant in the town. It is always great to see your parents in the middle of the day.  It is like being picked up early from school unexpectedly for just because! Even without the El Big-O Margarit-O, it was a fantastic meal. There will be a running theme through this blog post – food.

We made our way to Itta Bena, home to Mississippi Valley State University.  MVSU is the university that gave us Jerry Rice. The campus looks old and run down, but the people on campus were super friendly. It was almost like we were transported back in time to 1965. With the exception of their Mobile Command Vehicle (Spotted that vehicle because of Be Ready Camp) everything on campus seemed sad and run down. We only really spent a little time on campus, but I think their famous alumni, Jerry Rice, should donate to the building fund.

From Itta Bean we moved west to Leland, Miss which is the proud birth place of Kermit the Frog. Leland was the childhood home of Jim Henson, the creator of Kermit the Frog and his Muppet friends! There is a small exhibit dedicated to Jim Henson. Birthplace of the Frog: An Exhibit of Jim Henson’s Delta Boyhood is a collection of photos and such along side an original Kermit the Frog puppet. If you ever find yourself with thirty minutes to kill in Leland, you should take the time to visit. I am proud of my home state because of all the very creative people who started their lives in Mississippi. I do not consider Brett Farve creative at this point in his career, except for the Sears commercials.

We stayed the night in Greenville, Miss with Snapper’s friend, Jessica. Our goal was to eat at Doe’s Eat Place. This place has history and there is a story behind our choice of Doe’s. Way back when I was too old to be Snapper’s friend. Snapper text messaged me at Dodge’s Chicken & Gas station in Cleveland, Miss on her way to visit Jessica. I told Snapper to “Eat at Doe’s!” She was excited to be where I went to college and I was excited she was headed to Greenville. Unfortunately the wait at Doe’s was unbearable to her travel buddies and they ate at Shoney’s instead.

This trip we would wait for as long as it would take to eat tamales and steak! I was so excited to visit this shrine to Delta cuisine. Alton Brown visited Doe’s in his “Feasting on Asphalt” series.  I respect Alton Brown! Bill Clinton has eaten at Doe’s, that man knows good food (and it shows). When we walked into Doe’s I saw Brent Wong’s mom. Spoke to Brent’s mom. How did I know it was Mrs. Wong? She was the only Asian in the place.

Jessica and her husband, John would be our hosts for the evening. They were wonderful hosts. Doe’s doesn’t have a menu so John ordered for us. If you know Snapper and me, we hate making food decisions. John simply ordered tamales, shrimp, salads and oh by the way a steak to feed four people! Wow, stress is gone, time for a wonderful meal. It was a wonderful meal. I love Doe’s tamales. Story goes that Doe’s son’s wife doesn’t even know the recipe for the tamales. I don’t want to know the recipe, I just want to visit again and eat more. All the food was wonderful. I just hope Chris and I can visit Jessica and John soon!

Wednesday – October 27

Delta State’s teacher recruitment day was the reason why we were in Mississippi. On Wednesday morning when we were setting up in the Union I felt special. True, I am an Okra too! However, I felt special because of my friend Emily Erwin Jones, archivist at Delta State University, had already been by to visit. Snapper and I had so many great candidates stop by our table. One student in particular was one of the best prospects ever. He seemed to be well rounded with great personality.

We ate lunch at my favorite lunch spot in Cleveland, A la Cart. Then we visited the airport and looked into the Boo Farris Museum before we left campus for the afternoon. Snapper and I would go to my favorite place in the Delta, the banks of the Mississippi River at Rosedale. When I was in college and I needed some time away from school but couldn’t go home to Winona, I would hike out to the sand bar and spend time near the river. The river is an amazing thing. It is calm, and without the river my state might be named something like Washington.

Our evening meal was at Hey Joe’s and we played trivia. The team that we joined was amazing! Didn’t realize there was such at giant difference between trivia and “NERD TRIVIA!” We were playing nerd trivia. I lost Snapper at some point in time during the night; she found her way back to campus somehow. We gained another red headed friend name Lola. Besides the trivia Hey Joe’s has an incredible atmosphere. Thick brick walls, antique signs hanging and they sell old vinyl records. This place is cool with spicy seasoned fries!

Thursday – October 28

Our last day on campus was just as rewarding as our time at the job fair. The students at DSU seemed to enjoy our presentation and hopefully that will pay off in excellent Space Camp staff next spring. My favorite classroom visit was the aviation students in the Gibson-Gunn building. Overall we had an excellent visit to the Delta. But our trip was not over yet. We had to travel back home! Luckily, I got the chance to show off one more place I was proud of, Camp of the Rising Son, when Snapper and I visited CRS. Funny thing, I started to work at CRS when Snapper was ten years old. Heck, she could have been a camper. I guess I am too old to be Snapper’s friend.

All my visits to Mississippi are precious to me. I remember when I was a camper at Space Camp, I felt disconnected to family and friends because I was in ALABAMA. Crazy how sister states can be so different. The Mississippi Delta is a special place! But more over, the people we met this week are special. Jessica, John, Emily, Matt, and hopefully all those Okra we recruited this week! I love my home state and I love my Mississippi friends! It was so great that everyone rolled out the red carpet on our visit! Thanks y’all for making this trip great!

Bravo Romeo Charlie

Photo By Al WhitikerBe Ready Camp is over for 2010. Will we have BRC 2011, only our next governor knows?  As for me, if this was our last year of BRC, I don’t think we could have ended it better! The final mock disaster was perfect, Gumbo made a great Incident Commander. The BRC staff was better and more knowledgeable than ever!

The special thing about BRC is the kids are my people! They come from the rural areas around Alabama. People from the first responder corps and blue collar men and women send their kids to BRC. Even the fire boys and paramedics who help out are my people. I found out that a Huntsville fire captain who has helped since BRC1 is a cotton farmer! People don’t get much better than farmers!

The staff seems to give a little more as well. Fireball works only on Friday to take care of the UAHuntsville nursing students. Snapper and Slip Knot have their favorite briefings. I love teaching Incident Command. The leadership skills that I have learned from BRC are more valuable than any book, lecture, or class on the subject. We teach things such as planning for a disaster. We teach kids to use common sense and keep their heads about them when chaos is all around them. It is a life skills camp, which is why it is so important.

On Friday night with smoke all around and a MedFlight helicopter hovering over the lake, I told someone that the mock disaster looked more realistic than ever. I was hoping the kids would respond with a great performance too. This week was a little bit of a struggle, but the kids rocked the mock disaster out! Each year, I am so proud of the kids and staff for their hard work on Friday night!  This year was a little more special.

BRC graduations are a little different than Aviation Challenge grads. We have more parents for six teams of BRC campers than we do for ten teams of AC campers. The parents and the campers are so thankful for the camp. I stand in one place under the bubble and here thank you for the campers and parents. It makes all the extra work of BRC worth it! At the end of my career, I will look back at BRC and still be proud to have been a part of the camp! It is truly a special camp!

If you have worked Be Ready Camp, why is it special to you?


September is an amazing month! On Saturday morning when I opened the door to let Boo out, I discovered fall was here. It was 54 degrees and I was headed to Lynchburg for a tour and barbecue. This makes for an amazing day! Later in the day there would be lots of college football!

The only downside to the whole plan was the in-laws were tagging along on this Jack Daniels trip. Not to worry, just because they were bored and not much fun, I still had a blast. The best story from the day was when Mrs. Key went 10-12 steps out of her way to use the crosswalk on the square in Lynchburg. Lynchburg is a town with one traffic light and lots of pedestrians. Mrs. Key is a very cautious individual who doesn’t even like to use the word “risk.” Don’t get me wrong, it was nice visiting with the Keys, especially since they don’t come around much. It has been three years since they visited us in Huntsville.

Football, it was an amazing day for college football! Ole Miss or University of Mississippi, whatever they want to be called lost to Jacksonville State in overtime. Houston Nutt proclaimed it the toughest loss of his coaching career. Colonel Reb was not in attendance for the game. Why does political correctness even have a place in college football? I would like to think Ole Miss has cursed themselves; which I am fine with. They are killing off an iconic figure in Oxford, Colonel Reb, for Rebel the cutesy Black Bear. I don’t follow Ole Miss, but why would they give up a piece of the history? What are they thinking? It is silly, but I am enjoying ringing my cowbell this morning!

September is filled with wonderful reasons to love this month! Be Ready Camp starts next week and almost 90 kids will be at Aviation Challenge to learn about preparedness. It is a little about learning real life skills. College football is all around and there is lots of excitement. My favorite TV show, Glee, will return to FOX during the week between college football games. After BRC we will have SCI-VIS and more college football. And I am sure; I will go to visit Lynchburg a time or two since it is Jack’s birthday. Lets all be sure to enjoy September, the best month of the calendar year!

Be Ready Camp in Review, Part 2

MedFlight hovering over AC (BRC 2009)Be Ready Camp is over for another year. After four years, nine weeks of camps, and a few hundred kids BRC has become my favorite camp of the year. People have asked me what project or what job have I enjoyed the most or been the most proud of. The obvious answer for me is Be Ready Camp!!! Growing up I told everyone that one day I would start my own camp. BRC is that camp and it is the coolest thing I do in a year filled with training, camp ops, and recruiting.

Be Ready Camp is like the post season to the Aviation Challenge summer with the mock disaster drill as the Super Bowl. The kids must be focused during the week to learn what is needed to be successful. Both the kids and the staff must be dedicated to the hard work. So many of the staff give a little extra during the BRC weeks and exceed the standard each week of Be Ready. They teach the kids cheers and chants and stay late to finish the search and rescue activities. That is the type of effort it takes to win championships and complete the mock disaster drill triumphantly. I am so thankful for all those who gave extra, they make my job easy.

I could tell this would be a great week just a few hours after the kids arrived. Bedazzled was a stand out early on. On the first day and I think every day after Wii asked if the mock disaster drill would be scarier than “Thriller.” And honestly until just a few minutes ago, I didn’t know that the “Thriller” video was all that scary and gory. But growing up I didn’t have cable or watch videos. I lived in the middle of nowhere. Back to the point… we had great kids. Toe Jam, Violet, Candy, and Bob the Builder are just a few of the outstanding kids who worked hard to make the drill a success.

When I was getting the kids prepped I was very impressed with how ready they were. We tried a new way for BRC to track the patients in and out of the treatment area. I remember explaining to Bedazzled, the Transportation Officer, and Red, the Medical Captain, that if they could account for all of the victims they would be successful. Red asked if it would be like beating the final level of a video game. After all was said and done, Red and Bedazzled, accounted for 91.1% of the victims. From what I have been told that is high for even professional rescuers. They did very, very well. Snapper was so impressed she gave Bedazzled her AC coin.

BRC Staff T-ShirtsEvery great camp has tried and true traditions. BRC must be great because we have traditions. From the dinosaur names to late night ice cream socials and not to mention the cute fire fighters, Be Ready Camp is top notch. Another tradition is the Be Ready Bourbon. It started with the bottle of Jack given to me by the staff. That bottle is still unopened in my office. Then Kim Dickerson was presented with Woodford Reserve for her work on the team books and the fact she was leaving camp for culinary school. It was made an official award in 2008 when Divot held us all together to earn a bottle Bulleit. This year Slip Knot was victorious with her work organizing the UAH Nursing students and working on the victim cards. Without Slip Knot this year wouldn’t have been as successful.

With that said, there are so many people that make BRC successful. Some of the key players are the staff at the Governor’s Office of Faith Based and Community Initiatives (GFBCI), Ric Wilkerson with help from his HEMSI crew, Chad Tillman and his friends in Madison Rescue Squad, and countless others. I think that is what makes BRC so special; all those who are working for nothing so the kids can learn to save lives. Those guys are real life heroes and the heroes of BRC. I am proud just to rub elbows with those men and women. I also hope that if years from now I am in a disaster the hand that reaches out to help me is a kid like Toe Jam, Waterboy, or Bedazzled.

To be continued in 2010…

Be Ready Camp in Review, Part 1

Sept 11th Ceremony (BRC 2009)Because I didn’t have a lot of time to write, this post will be a collection of random thoughts about this past week of Be Ready Camp. This week was a huge success and we only lost four campers to homesickness. The mock disaster was truly amazing yet again. All the victims were rescued and the kids had a tremendous time.

The remarkable thing about BRC is how much the campers mature over the course of four days. They grow more confident with each activity that goes by. Some kids come to camp thinking they can’t make it without being on their friend’s team. Then you see them make friends with other kids. Some kids start camp thinking “I can’t save someone’s life or rescue them from a burning building.” But on Friday you see all the kids take charge to respond to a disaster. BRC is the best camp experience that teaches preparedness for disasters and for life!

The staff this week was so great! Support helped out and went the extra mile! On Thursday night we had the “Three Amigos” helping with clean up, search and rescue, and all the thousands of other things we needed to accomplish. Slip Knot and Snapper taught the kids triage and search and rescue skills. They also keep me focused and on task. Tank and Biscuit were team leaders. God bless them both, they had special campers. One word, Sugar! Divot was a slacker; he had a wedding to attend!

Friday night’s events grew into something bigger than what we all had first envisioned. Friday marked the eighth anniversary of the terrorist attacks of 9/11. It was also the first National Day of Service and Remembrance. For a month or so we had planned for a small ceremony to honor the first responders and highlight the kids’ mock disaster! First they wanted Governor Bob Riley to attend, then it was Senator Jeff Sessions and finally at the last minute it was Congressmen Parker Griffith. On Thursday morning, the governor’s office sent out a press release declaring our little ceremony the state’s official remembrance service. Small event turns big in a blink of an eye.

Poor ChrisWe had channels 48, 31, and 19 at the event! The Huntsville Times did a really great write up on the event and talked to the kids. One camper lived in New York during the attacks. HEMSI and Huntsville Fire had trucks under the bubble for show. Once the event was over, we all scrambled to place victims, turn off the fire alarm system, set up the demo explosions, and brief the overly anxious kids. It was chaos!

Shortly after the disaster started we had MedFlight circling above. We had kids scattered with everyone looking for people to help. We also had news reporters and camera men chasing the kids wanting to get a word or two with them. One camper pushed a reporter out of the way saying, “I am helping save a life. I will talk to you later!” There were 57 kids acting as first responders and 67 UAH nursing students acting as victims. The fire trucks roared in as the campers extinguished smaller fires. HEMSI ambulances arrived to take victims to safety and the water rescue squad deployed boats in the lake.

The victims were rescued and the kids were put to bed. Gobble was a nervous wreck by the end of the night. She was transportation officer, the most stressful job at BRC. Sugar was bouncing of the roof of the bubble but all was good. The only hiccup from the time of the mock disaster until grad the next morning was not having a bus on Saturday morning.

BRC graduations are such a festive event. Almost every parent is clad in crimson or orange [Roll Tide / War Eagle]. But the pride they have for their child is more noticeable than the SEC logo on their chest. When Peanut received the Right Stuff award her mom leaped up with excitement to hug her! In all my years, I have never seen a parent hug a camper after winning an award. All the parents were proud and all the kids were walking a little taller because of BRC.

Dinosaurs & Heroes

Kim playing a victim (BRC 2008)Let’s travel back in time thousands of years ago when dinosaurs roamed the earth. They lived in harmony with the universe. They snacked on the leaves and trees around them. Suddenly a meteor tore through the atmosphere and changed the living conditions on earth. The dinosaurs were not prepared when disaster struck. They didn’t have an emergency kit, an evacuation route, or a weather radio to listen to updates on the ice age. As humans, being smarter than our prehistoric friends we should learn from the tragic end of the dinosaurs.

Now let’s travel back in time just a few years ago when Be Ready Camp didn’t exist. During the last week of July 2006 I was called to a meeting with directors, VPs, and a few people from Montgomery. It was a two hour meeting where a few guys from Madison County EMA, some ladies from the Governor’s Office of Faith-Based & Community Initiatives and the Aerospace team invented Be Ready Camp. It was filled with tours and PowerPoint presentations. At the end of the camp experience the kiddies would respond to a mock disaster. A disaster where all hell would break loose, the kids would act as the first responders and save the day.

The first day of camp arrived and it was dull and dry, boring and bland. Sixth graders were dropping like flies to homesickness and boredom. I had to find something to save the day. I went to the dollar store in search of the holy grail of camp salvation, something to make the preparedness game not so lame. I found multi-colored foam dinosaur stickers to save the day! Thus starting the Be Ready Camp tradition surrounding the dinosaurs, from that day forward, the battle cry was “Don’t be like dinosaurs, BE READY!”

Be Ready Camp has grown into more than just kids from Madison County into a state wide event. Be ready Camp is now held on multiple weeks for more than 150 students. BRC’s success is not because of the dinosaurs, but each September reminds me of the dinosaurs. The success of BRC has lots of people to thank, Bowtie, Popeye, Google, the guys and gals at GFBCI, and all the volunteers. The staff at camp look forward to Be Ready Camp and we have way too much fun.

The first BRC we had a kid who was an evacuee from New Orleans. All the campers are given CERT backpacks and taught how to make an emergency kit. This kid cherished everything we gave him. He wore his CERT vest everywhere. We called him Vest. Some of my favorite kids have come from at risk areas and homes. Those are my favorite kids. Ocho Cinco was so funny and one of my favorites! Some other great kids were Beef & Cheddar, Bones, and Swoosh. The kids come from all over, they are paired with a battle buddy, and they are trained to be a hero. I don’t really know why, but Be Ready Camp is the best camp of the year!

Back to present day, BRC has grown from tours and silly stickers to a solid camp where kids learn life preservation. “Big head, little arms, T-Rex!” is our cheer! The volunteers walk the kids though being a first responder. Even the heater meals taste good. There has even been an ice cream social and evacuation for a gas leak after hours. Next week will be BRC 4 and this year we will have just as much fun and excitement in years past. But knowing the kids are learning something that could save the human race from extinction. “Don’t be like dinosaurs, BE READY!”