USF, MacDill Air Force Base to join forces

USF’s veteran researchers will soon have direct access to the military resources and experiences of personnel at MacDill Air Force Base.

At Wednesday’s Board of Trustees (BOT) meeting, USF Research and Innovations and USF World Military Partnerships announced the joint effort with MacDill which geared toward enhancing military research for both entities.

After speaking with Lt. Gen. John Allen, who has been tapped to replace Gen. David Petraeus as commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, and USF faculty members who have already worked with MacDill, Lt. Gen. Martin R. Steele, co-chair of USF’s Veterans Reintegration program, said he decided to spearhead the partnership project.

“We are only limited by our initiative and our imaginations,” Steele said during the BOT meeting. “The opportunity for sharing the best of our academic research and rigor, coupled with the means of the military, is significant.”

Karen Holbrook, senior vice president for both Research, Innovation & Global Affairs and USF World, said the partnership will be reciprocal.

MacDill will benefit from the research conducted by USF, which will range from cultural analysis of the areas soldiers are fighting in to new medical practices that help treat post-traumatic stress disorder. USF will benefit from increased access to the resources at MacDill, which include soldiers, officials and equipment that can be used in research projects.

“Those connections are extremely strong,” Holbrook said. “The reason we put this in place is that we have engineering working with MacDill, we have medicine working with MacDill, we have (USF) World working with MacDill, we have (the College of) Arts and Sciences working with MacDill, but we haven’t coordinated activities, so we can make the biggest impact possible.”

Beyond the partnership, Steele said he is also involved in creating a rehabilitation research complex facility for returning veterans, making it the first of its kind in the nation. The center will serve as a research and clinical facility “designed to enhance the physical, cognitive, emotional wellness of our veterans, wounded warriors, elderly and their families,” he said.

Holbrook said independent faculty members are already doing research at MacDill, and Steele’s connections with high-ranking military officials have made the partnership process easier.

“Many times, when faculty go directly to people in the military, they go at the lower level, and if you really want to get something done, you need to get in at the level where you can really get action done quickly,” she said. “That’s the advantage of having a three-star general help us. (Steele) knows these people. He knows the military. He’s well-connected. These are people who are not just names, but personal friends to him.”

Steele said the Department of Veterans Affairs’ Yellow Ribbon Program recently recognized USF as the eighth most “Veteran Friendly” campus. Yet, eighth place is not good enough for Steele, who said he pledged to USF President Judy Genshaft that he would help make USF the top-ranked university in Veteran Success.

“Everyone works in their own little scope, and what we need to do is start sharing ideas and cooperate on the best that we bring to the local and the global community,” he said. “Today in the global community, it’s a perfect marriage. What USF has done around the globe establishing relationships with countries can be geared toward peaceful means of security and stability. My personal view is that the more we understand and respect one another and share, the better we’re going to be in the future.”

Steele said Congressmen Bill Young and Gus Bilirakis have both expressed their support for the facility and the partnership.