Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Pasco's Great-American Teach-in 2011: A retired commander of special ops forces commands a room of curious kindergarteners

SAN ANTONIO — Doug Brown has jumped out of airplanes 20,000 feet in the sky.

He has advised presidents. He has led missions deep into enemy territory in wars since 1967.

His toughest mission? Facing a library filled with elementary school students for the Great American Teach-In on Thursday, the retired commander of the nation's military special operations forces said with a grin.

"This is a tougher crowd than I'm used to talking to," Brown said as the children filed quietly into the San Antonio Elementary media center, several carrying small American flags to wave. "I'd rather be talking to students at the JFK School of Government."

Not really.

The four-star general, whose forces faced down many of the world's "bad guys," came well prepared to deal with the youngsters, who were filled with enthusiasm and questions about his 40 years in the military. Brown let the children try on his Vietnam-era pilot's helmet, examine a full-size Army parachute, learn about the meals that soldiers eat in the field.

Hands shot up whenever he asked for some help.

Brown laughed each time.

"In the Army, the first rule is, never volunteer," he told the children, who continued their animated waves for the chance to participate. "But you guys are great. You should always volunteer."

After getting through his presentation, Brown asked a question to start a discussion rolling: "What do you guys think an Army does?"

Their answers included fighting wars, jumping out of airplanes, making it safe around the world and hurting people.

All good answers, Brown said. But there's even more.

"Let me tell you what you don't see," he said. "It's your Army. You should be very proud that they go into disaster areas and rebuild schools, teach classes, run medical clinics. . . . They eliminate suffering. They try to build security and stability so kids like you can go to school."

Then he opened the floor for student queries. They had many, including whether Brown had ever received a Purple Heart ("No, and I'm very glad about that") and what kinds of guns the Army uses ("It goes on up to whatever you need").

Some asked if he knew their parents serving in the military. He didn't, but told the children to thank their parents for their service.

One boy asked how others can join the Army.

That's where Brown stressed the importance of education — a key focus of the annual teach-in — telling the children to finish high school and college before heading to the recruiting office. It's a great career, he said, with many more opportunities if you have a degree.

After the presentation ended, the kids were still in awe. Some stayed longer to ask questions and learn more.

Fifth-grader Douglas Tillack, 10, and his brother Cameron, 8, a second-grader, were thrilled that their invited guest had proven such a great draw. They met Brown, who lives in Lake Jovita, after their dad did a construction project at his home and suggested they ask him to speak.

"Everybody would like to see the general," Cameron said. "I want to learn about war."

"I thought it was really interesting and amazing," said fifth-grader Riley Lachance, 11. "I didn't know they had a gas pole on the front of the big helicopters (for refueling). I didn't know you had double parachutes."

"I want to join the Army when I grow up," said fifth-grader Morgan Gilbert, also 11. "It seems kind of fun."

Kindergartener Sean Berry, 5, said he enjoyed learning about the Army and the parachutes that soldiers use when jumping out of planes.

"My second favorite thing was him talking about hiding in the woods, because it looks fun," he said, referring to the camouflage that Brown showed.

Brown said that he enjoyed his time meeting with the children, too.

"Coming to see you folks makes me very hopeful for the future of this nation," he told the kids. "Thanks for letting me come talk."

Jeffrey S. Solochek can be reached at or (813) 909-4614. For more education news, visit the Gradebook at

Pasco's Great-American Teach-in 2011: A retired commander of special ops forces commands a room of curious kindergarteners 11/17/11 [Last modified: Thursday, November 17, 2011 10:15pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Home of Tampa Bay Lightning GM Steve Yzerman hits market at $3.45 million

    Real Estate

    TAMPA — The Davis Islands home of Tampa Bay Lightning General Manager Steve Yzerman is back on the market for $3.45 million after a brief hiatus.

    The Davis Islands home of Tampa Bay Lightning General Manager Steve Yzerman is on the market for $3.45 million. [Courtesy of Hi Res Media]
  2. Motorcyclist in serious condition after crash in St. Petersburg


    A motorcyclist is in serious condition after he crashed into a car in St. Petersburg on Thursday afternoon, according to St. Petersburg Police.

  3. 20 great images from around the globe for June 16 to June 23


    Photos of the week for June 16 - June 23: A deadly collision at sea, a WWII vet turns 100, gorgeous images from Bermuda, Germany, Libya, Milan and Rio, Otto Warmbier's parents lay their son to rest, and more.

    A commercial airplane flies past the moon above Geneva, Switzerland, Saturday, June 17, 2017. (Valentin Flauraud/Keystone via AP)
  4. William March: Capin and Cruz appear destined for District 1 race

    Local Government

    Tampa City Council member Yolie Capin and state Rep. Janet Cruz, D-Tampa, appear headed for a primary in the District 1 County Commission race, which has Democrats worried they'll once again have strong candidates competing against each other in primaries, to the detriment of their chances against Republicans.

    Times Correspondent William March
  5. Watch: Gorilla dances like a 'maniac' in kiddie pool


    Zola, a gorilla who resides at the Dallas Zoo, has gone viral after showing off his dance moves.