MURFREESBORO, Tenn. –
Four of Tennessee’s civilian Army Reserve Ambassadors welcomed Command Sergeant Major of the Army Reserve Andrew Lombardo to the Nashville area on May 24 for a series of events honoring the service of Reserve and Active Duty troops and veterans.
Lombardo’s visit to Middle Tennessee State University in Murfreesboro and the iconic Grand Ole Opry in Nashville was at the invitation of Ambassador Andrew Oppmann, MTSU’s vice president for marketing and communications, and retired Army Lt. Gen. Keith Huber, who serves as the university’s senior advisor for veterans and leadership initiatives. The command sergeant major served with Huber during the general’s last active-duty assignment as commander of Combined Joint Interagency Task Force 435 in Afghanistan.
Fellow ambassadors Travis Burchett and Douglas Gilbert, as well as Army Reserve Ambassador Emeritus John Dyess, joined Oppmann in hosting a luncheon on the MTSU campus for Lombardo and more than 30 area Reserve troops, including warrior-citizens from the 332nd Medical Brigade, the 128th Chaplain Detachment, the 332nd Medical Brigade and the 290th Military Police Brigade. Lombardo was joined by 81st Readiness Division CSM Dennis Thomas on the visit.
The Reserve soldiers, along with the four ambassadors, assembled at MTSU’s Veterans Memorial to welcome Lombardo and Thomas to the gathering. Lombardo then presented each ambassador with his personal challenge coin and briefed the soldiers on the role of ambassadors as advocates for their welfare, as well as their service as representatives of Chief of Army Reserve LTG Jody Daniels with a mission to generate greater awareness of the Reserve.
Before the luncheon, the command sergeant major toured MTSU’s Charlie and Hazel Daniels Veterans and Military Family Center, the largest and most comprehensive facility of its kind on a university campus and named after the late country music icon Charlie Daniels and his wife, Hazel. Lombardo said he was impressed by the university’s commitment to student veterans and their families.
“My (initial) impression is how this facility has embraced the concept of citizen soldier and veterans pursuing higher education, whether it be a bachelor’s degree or graduate degree,” Lombardo said. “The fact the university has created the Daniels Center as a space for veterans to be able to utilize their educational benefits to further their education is a testament to their commitment, to help transitioning military members transition to civilian society and become full citizens.”
Huber said it was “a privilege” to have Lombardo visit MTSU “and to make him aware of what MTSU supports from what we do at the Charlie and Hazel Daniels Veterans and Military Family Center.”
“He and I served together in Afghanistan and during some very difficult times. I have a great deal of respect and affection for him.”
Regarding what Huber and university leadership have been able to accomplish through the Daniels Center, Lombardo said “the military’s an organization of cohesive teams that are highly trained, disciplined and fit, and our bonds stay strong. They don’t leave us when we leave military service, so that’s why General Huber and I remain in touch. It’s the cohesiveness and discipline that are required for our service in order to successfully defend our country that makes us a unique organization.
Lombardo and his staff visited also with leaders of MTSU’s Army ROTC program, including CPT Daniel Lowe, recruiter Marty Hill, and newly commissioned Reserve 2LTs Michael Maynard and Tahseen “Mike” Samo. As he did the entire time he was on campus, Lombardo showed a sincere interest in learning about the program’s 71-year history, which includes 17 of its commissioned cadets reaching general rank.
Lombardo also said he was “pleased to see the university has a Reserve Officers Training Program. Of course, it’s important that we’re able to continually provide the services with competent leaders to lead our organizations. … The staff in general were very military friendly.”
Later in the day, Lombardo and Huber accompanied Hazel Daniels and her son, Charlie Daniels Jr., to a special “Salute the Troops” performance of the Grand Ole Opry, the iconic country music concert venue in Nashville that is home to the longest-running radio broadcast in U.S. history. The Opry asked Lombardo, Huber and Thomas to lead a “red carpet parade” of soldiers and veterans into the Opry House. The Opry then brought Lombardo on stage and presented him with a commemorative plaque as a guest announcer.
Lombardo said he was proud to represent the Reserve at the sold-out, nationally televised event. “We have 3,500 citizen soldiers that work in Tennessee, so it’s just one small way that I can contribute telling the Army Reserve story,” the command sergeant major said.
Lombardo also said he appreciated the opportunity to learn more about MTSU, reconnect with Huber and represent the Reserve at events in Nashville and Murfreesboro.
“I’m incredibly grateful to the hospitality that LTG Huber showed me as well as Army Reserve Ambassador Oppmann,” he said.