West Virginia University Director of Athletics Oliver Luck has always held our service men and women in the highest regard, and now, through a special program sponsored by the Secretary of Defense, he will get an opportunity to spend a week learning more about what they do on a daily basis.
This weekend, Luck and other community leaders throughout the nation will be participating in the 84th Joint Civilian Orientation Conference (JCOC). The JCOC is the oldest outreach program in the Department of Defense and the only such program sponsored by the Secretary.
According to the Joint Civilian website, the program was established in 1948 by Secretary of Defense James V. Forrestal to institute a “joint course for top-flight civilian leaders” to give them an “integrated picture of the military establishment” and deal with such things as national policy and the problems confronting the United States in pursuing its policies – economic and political – and the military’s ability to carry out those policies.
Each year since 1948, with the exception of a few years in 1961, 1971, 1975, 1976 and 1977, the Department of Defense has sponsored the program.
JCOC participants will have the opportunity to engage senior military leadership and interact with troops while participating in some of the most exciting facets of their day-to-day operations. Last year, West Virginia University president Jim Clements was invited to participate in the conference.
“I know Jim raved about the experience he had doing this,” Luck said.
Because the conference will be conducted at secure locations throughout the country, the participants are only allowed to promote their individual involvement in the program. What they see and do is only permitted to be publicized after the fact, therefore, Luck knows very little about his itinerary.
“I have no idea what the schedule is for the week,” he said. “All I know is I’m supposed to report in D.C. (July 22) at 4 o’clock and they bring you back that next Saturday at 3 o’clock. That’s all I really know.”
What Luck does know is that his days will be long and communication with others will be very limited.
“They encourage the participants to take a cheap camera [in case it gets lost or damaged], but I believe there are only certain places where you are allowed to take pictures,” Luck said.
Luck has talked to others who have participated in the program in the past and is intrigued by what it has to offer.
“Everybody I’ve talked to, especially the PR guy from the Titans, said it was the most interesting five days he’s ever spent in his life,” Luck said. “He said they will get you up at 5 a.m. and you’ll do all sorts of stuff. They are offering a session in water training that the Marines do and they say if you are a competent swimmer you can sign up. I signed up and I’m going to do it.
“Just being in a cruiser and flying in helicopters … that will be great,” he said. “I’m going to love it.”
Luck’s interest in the military is two-fold. One, his father served in the Army, and two, he is aware of the fact that West Virginia has the highest number of veterans per capita in the nation, with roughly 200,000 of its 1.8 million inhabitants having served in the military.
“This state is so patriotic and we’ve got more veterans per capita living here than any other state in the country, and I think this is a great opportunity for me to get a better understanding of what they do,” he said.
Overall, Luck believes the program is a great way for community leaders and opinion influencers to learn more about our armed forces, and also, for our military leaders to identify who our community leaders are.
“It’s a chance for a civilian to get a glimpse inside how the military operates,” Luck said. “At the end of the day there are many, many people who serve and have served, and the majority of the folks don’t spend any time with the military.
"We read about it, but this will be an opportunity for us to get a glimpse at a lot of different aspects of the military.”Check out Antonik's new book The Backyard Brawl: Stories from One of the Weirdest, Wildest, Longest Running, and Most Intense Rivalries in College Football History available in bookstores this fall. A portion of the sales benefit the WVU Department of Intercollegiate Athletics. Also, be sure to "Like" the new Backyard Brawl Facebook page and tell us your personal WVU-Pitt story.