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Team MacDill provides outstanding support for CORONA Top

by Nick Stubbs
Thunderbolt straff writer
Photos by Tech. Sgt. Doug Lingefelt

It took a team to make CORONA Top a success and MacDill members worked around the clock to make it happen, including into the night, as Air Force generals arrived for the annual conference.

Staff Sgt. Derrick Cunningham and Senior Airman Darius Tolver, 6 Communication Squadron network control center, work on computer access issues at Corona Top.

Officers Club staffers serve breakfast to a Top attendee while Staff Sgt. Thomas Hammond and military working dog Robbie perform a security sweep at the Davis Conference Center.

Col. Margaret Woodward, 6th Air Mobility Wing commander and Col. Don Halpin, vice commander, salute an arriving Gen. Robert Fogelsong arriving this week for CORONA Top.

Being selected to host CORONA Top is an indicator of the confidence the Air Force has in Team MacDill to provide the facilities and support required to make the premier war fighters conference a success. MacDill did not disappoint.

From organizing conferences, providing rock-solid security, multimedia technology, extensive secure communications, computer systems, not to mention world-class hospitality and precision service and formal choreography at the traditional Heraldic Dinner, MacDill personnel achieved the goal of becoming transparent.

In other words, things ran so smoothly that nothing distracted from the business at hand -planning and coordination of the Air Force’s support in the Global War on Terrorism.

While home of past CORONA South events, this is the first time MacDill has hosted CORONA Top, said Maj. Tressie Waldo, deputy project officer. CORONA Top is more focused on strategy and planning. It also draws general officer attendees from commands all over the continent she said.

And the event has been a big success, running smoothly thanks to the work and planning of MacDill personnel, she notes.

It's no surprise. MacDill is "the best of the best" in the Air Force and consistently proves itself as one of the top bases in the Air Force and Air Mobility Command, she said, adding that planning for CORONA Top began as soon as CORONA South ended earlier this year.

"CORONA South was over at 11 a.m.," she recalled. "We were in planning for CORONA Top by 2 p.m."

The expertise, dedication and professionalism of MacDill personnel made all the difference, she said. That spirit was apparent in the quality and talent on display at the Airmen’s Heritage Dinner held last week. A mirror of the traditional Heraldic Dinner for Air Force leadership which was held Tuesday, the Airmen’s Dinner was hosted by MacDill commanders, and their invited guests were Airmen or NCOs from their groups or squadrons. Each enlisted Airman represented all the enlisted members in their group.

"It was awesome; incredible," said Major Waldo of the Airmen’s Dinner. “Everyone in attendance was very impressed by the talent represented in that room; it was inspiring."

Airman Amanda Lawler represented the 6th Logistics Readiness Squadron at the dinner and was honored to be invited by her commander.

"It was excellent and very impressive," she said. "I tried to look good, act good and represent the LRS well."

The commanders at the dinner not only paid for their own meals, but picked up the tab for their enlisted guests to show gratitude for contributions to their respective missions. It's all about thanking the hard-working enlisted members and even the servers at the dinner, some of them officers, volunteered their time in honor of the enlisted guests at the event.

“Spectacular planning by the MacDill team resulted in extraordinary support to the chief of staff of the Air Force and the senior leadership,” said Lt. Col. Richard Fuentes, head project officer for CORONA Top. “The team conducted a multi- pronged strategy culminating in the Airmen’s Dinner. This dinner honored our 6th Air Mobility Wing’s Airmen and was also a full dress rehearsal for our servers.”

With so many generals at MacDill this week and ongoing operations in Afghanistan and Iraq, communications support has been critical. 2nd Lt. Charlie Spaulding was in charge of setting up secure and standard phone lines and fax machines, as well as computers that keep Air Force leadership in contact with those they command and other U.S. military commanders. Some 130 phone lines were set up, along with 35 computers and numerous other communications support equipment to ensure being at CORONA Top does not amount to being out of touch.

"It's been flawless," said Lieutenant Spaulding, who had 25 personnel on the job supporting CORONA attendees and their traveling support staffs. Three months went into the planning of the systems needed and it has paid off in seamless communications.

"Our job is to make sure they (CORONA attendees) don't notice Comm," said Lieutenant Spaulding. "When we are doing our job, we disappear into the background."

That's not to say their work isn't being noticed at all.

"We've been getting a lot of compliments," Lieutenant Spaulding said.

Maj. Donna Pilson, of the Vice Chief of Air Force Staff team of executive assistants, said MacDill was a standout in terms of support for CORONA Top.

"The support has been absolutely awesome," she said. "It goes above and beyond."

Major Pilson was at MacDill earlier this year for a "great" CORONA South and notes base personnel only improve, making CORONA Top an even better conference.

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