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Pittsburgh mayor gets sample of combat conditions

Bob Bauder
| Wednesday, April 25, 2012, 8:20 a.m.

Pittsburgh Mayor Luke Ravenstahl is experiencing combat flight conditions and military cannon fire while traveling with the Air Force this week, but he reports he's most impressed with the airmen.

"I think we all take for granted sometimes what these folks do on our behalf," Ravenstahl wrote in a blog. "Not only are they in harm's way at any moment, but they embrace it and are eager to defend. Their warm smiles and friendly greetings are constant."

Ravenstahl is one of 37 people from across the nation participating in the Joint Civilian Orientation Conference, a program the Department of Defense offers to educate civic and business leaders about national defense and security.

The mayor will travel with the military until Friday and post daily at The Tribune-Review could not reach him by phone on Tuesday.

So far he has visited the Pentagon and Hurlburt Field, an Air Force base in Florida's panhandle. He wrote that his days begin at 5:30 a.m. and end about 10:45 at night.

After his Pentagon tour on Monday, he experienced combat conditions during night flights in military aircraft at Andrews Air Force Base outside Washington.

"We literally felt as if we were in a mission," he wrote. "It left us all speechless."

The military created the public outreach program in 1948. Defense officials selected Ravenstahl because he is one of the country's youngest mayors at age 32, and they wanted to include younger people. The federal government pays all expenses except Ravenstahl's transportation to Washington.

Ravenstahl said the young ages of Air Force personnel surprised him; more than half of those he met are 25 or younger.

"Many of them already have been deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan multiple times," he wrote. "Many of them, too, have families with young children. It's remarkable the sacrifice that these families make in order to be members of our military."

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