Boosting the morale of soldiers, airmen, marines and sailors in a combat zone has often been a leadership challenge for US Armed Forces Commands. In 2009, a group of volunteer Americans came together to create the nonprofit: American300 Warrior Tours with a mission of increasing the resiliency of today’s armed forces members, their families and communities that they live and operate in.
With a goal of assisting U.S. Armed Forces Commands, American300 provides the DoD office of Armed Forces Entertainment with motivational-resiliency oriented programming that allows both troops and families, communities back home to share in the experience of the tour. “Our board and advisory groups did extensive polling of troops to determine what could be done to raise the bar within the area of troop resiliency” says Major Jesse Stuart, a founding member of American300. “ we found that connectivity was a reoccurring theme, so we developed ways to address this in our motivational troop tours.”
Although not as glitzy as Hollywood, American300 Warrior Tours do bring an important ‘show’ on the road and to the front lines. The tours specialize in providing programs to aid in resiliency for the service member and their support network of family, friends and in the case of Guard and Reservists - employers. “We’ve been able to share Americans Honoring America’s Heroes, our nonprofits themed message with millions of Americans thanks to a great pool of volunteer media professionals.” says Robi Powers, volunteer manager of American300, adding “Our challenge has been in finding public affairs professionals who can give up the time and have the skills necessary to capture our tours in film and photography, in an environment that is often times anything but friendly.”
In 2009, Powers ran into Major Ed Shank, of the Pennsylvania National Guard while the guardsmen was deployed to Iraq and Powers was on a resiliency tour. The two became friends and Major Shank continued to follow American300 Warrior Tours efforts over the next several years. This past fall, Powers reached out to the Major, asking if there was any way to solicit National Guard Public Affairs soldiers to join in on American300 Warrior Tours. “ We ran it up our chain of command, reviewed American300’s media galleries and determined that there was indeed a need that could be met by our Public Affairs Office.” said Major Shank
The next step for American300 was to see if this concept of utilizing National Guard Public Affairs specialists would be welcomed by the organizations partners at: Morale Welfare and Recreation, United States Air Force Services and the office of Armed Forces Entertainment. “ We started with Armed Forces Entertainment, since we do the majority of our motivational tours through them” says Powers, “After briefing LTC Kathleen Weatherspoon, chief of Armed Forces Entertainment, the ball started to roll, she and her staff embraced the concept.”
Deploying a National Guard or Reservist on a Department of Defense Armed Forces Entertainment Tour isn’t as easy as making a phone call. Duty Days, Accounting Numbers, Commands, Active Duty Orders and Authority, all have to be coordinated and in order. After months of diligence on the part of Armed Forces Entertainment’s staff and that of Head Quarters - Pennsylvania National Guard, Air Guard Master Sergeant George Roach, will be joining the Armed Forces Entertainment Wrangler National Patriot Tour, as the tours professional public affairs embed team member.
The tour features some of our countries best from the western world along with country music artist and TV Host Lucas Hoge, who are headed to undisclosed bases in the Middle East, to share stories of passion, dedication and success with American Armed Forces Members over the Memorial Day Week.
MSgt George Roach, a veteran of several previous overseas deployments as been with the Air National Guard for over 25 years and currently serves at Pennsylvania’s Joint Force Headquarters in Fort Indiantown Gap, Pennsylvania. He works as a Videographer in the Public Affairs Department.
Imagery is a huge part of American300‘s mission, the nonprofit develops daily photo, video and news updates while on tour and arranges stateside partnerships with major televised events that are willing to showcase footage after a tour. “We shared the photos and videos from last years Wrangler National Patriot Tour with millions” says Jeff Chadwick, manager of western events for Wrangler “This year we’ll be doing the same.. with footage shot by one of America’s Heroes - MSgt Roach, we’re very honored to have the master sergeant on board with us this year. ”
The new twist is exactly what American300 is looking for. “Armed Forces Entertainment does such a fantastic job of working with us on so many fronts, from our developing tour concepts to the ability to put our tours in some of the most remote low frequency bases around the world” says Ed Bell, chairperson of the nonprofit. “one of our focused groups has always been those who do the behind the scenes work within our military, being able to have a decorated public affairs soldier come on one of our supported tours meets the goals of our organization perfectly.”
So when the cowboys start roping and country music starts pumping, the click, click, click of cameras flashing, video rolling... will be captured by a uniformed member of the US Armed Forces, embedded on the Armed Forces Entertainment Wrangler National Patriot Tour. “ I might not be the tip of the spear, but my mission pumps these guys up when they see my images or pictures and that keeps me going…” says Master Sergeant George Roach, Pennsylvania Air National Guard.
About George Roach- As a civilian he works as a Photojournalist based out of Philadelphia for WTXF FOX News. He joined the Air National Guard over 20 years ago to pursue videography as a career field and while attending college for photography. This experience gave him the knowledge to pursue a civilian career working as film technician on block buster movies like “Up Close and Personal” starring Michele Phieffer and Robert Redford and several of M Night Shamala’s films including “Six Sense”.
About American300 Foundation- Please visit us on line at: American300.org
Follow the Tour at: www.WranglerNationalPatriot.com