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Howard D. Hardison, MSgt, USAF (Ret), Florida

Posted on April 27, 2023 at 1:50 PM by Virginia Smith

MSgt Hardison poses with class members and visiting meteorologist in the classroom

Howard D. Hardison, MSgt, (USAF Retired), AFJROTC instructor, invited a local TV meteorologist to his classroom while the students were studying weather.

April 27, 2023

Meet Howard D. Hardison, MSgt, USAF (Retired). He is the Air Force Junior ROTC (AFJROTC) and Aerospace Science Instructor (ASI) at Amos P. Godby High School, a public, Title I school in Tallahassee, Florida. After a 25-year military career, Sgt. Hardison has been an educator for four years and a CAP Aerospace Educator Member (AEM) for one year. In the Air Force, he worked in Command Centers or Command Post. He was deployed overseas in Desert Shield, Desert Storm and Operation Enduring Freedom. His interest in AFJROTC started 10 years before his retirement while volunteering at two high schools when stationed in New York and North Dakota. He continues to love AFJROTC instruction. "I like to always give real life applications to curriculum taught -- hands on as much as possible," he says of his teaching philosophy. "If there is a 'case in point' or a 'for example' moment with anything I teach, I always use it. Nothing is better than those “real life” moments (good or bad) for the students to see and hear about." One example of his bringing "real life into the classroom" came recently with teaching weather and using CAP's Weather Station STEM Kit. While studying weather and using the kit, his classes reached out to two local TV meteorologists, who visited the students. "Again, having people of various careers be guest speakers gives our Cadets the ability to see all the career opportunities available to them," he says. We asked him some questions about his military and AFJROTC instructor career, and his answers follow.

Tell us about your current school or organization. 

I teach at Amos P. Godby High School, a Public, Title I school in Tallahassee, Florida. I teach Air Force Junior ROTC (AFJROTC) and am Aerospace Science Instructor (ASI) for grades 9-12. 

How many years have you been an educator? 

I have been an educator four years.

Please tell us about your military career before your retirement and why you decided to become an AFJROTC instructor. 

Sgt. Hardison applied for CAP's Weather Station STEM Kit to enhance weather studies with his students.

I worked my 25-year Air Force career in Command Centers or Command Post. Everything that happened on our base came in and out through us. We were like an Emergency Operations Dispatch Center that required lots of multi-tasking skills.

I was stationed at Loring AFB, Caribou, Maine; Tyndall AFB, Panama City, Florida; Araxos AB in Greece; Rome Research Site in Rome, New York; and Minot AFB, Minot, North Dakota. My deployments were Lajes, Azores for Desert Shield, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, for Desert Storm and Kabul, Afghanistan, for Operation Enduring Freedom.

While serving, I completed my associate of arts degree in Information Technology, from the Community College of the AF; a bachelor of science degree in Business Management from SUNY Empire State College; and a master of arts degree in Business Management focusing on Leadership from American Military University. All my management studies focused on human resource management. So much of my educational studies tied directly into my actual work life, where I trained, supervised, managed and interacted with colleagues and outside agencies. This eventually became a great resource to refer back to when teaching and working in the civilian sector upon retirement.

While I was active in the Air Force, I volunteered at two high schools where I was stationed -- one in Rome, New York, and another in Minot, North Dakota.  My first interest in AFJROTC began 10 years before I retired. While stationed at Rome Research Site in Rome, New York, there were opportunities to participate with the Base Honor Guard. We would provide military honors at funerals for deceased Veterans as well as participate in public events such as parades and civic events. Additional drill movements were learned to what we already knew as military members. A new AFJROTC program had begun at Rome Free Academy High School. When going to Freshman orientation with my son, I met Retired Colonel Fred Wieners, who was the Senior Aerospace Instructor.  After a quick greeting, I asked if he needed any volunteers, and he was very excited to have the help. I began to volunteer with their after-school Drill and Color Guard teams. I had other Air Force personnel come with me. This allowed us to begin mentoring. I asked the Colonel how I could get more involved with this program, and he explained that high school AFJROTC instructors were retired. Applications would have to be filled out at Holm Center in Alabama.

After leaving New York, my family and I moved on to Minot AFB, North Dakota, where I finished my final five years in the Air Force. While there I volunteered at another AFJROTC unit at Magic City High, Minot, North Dakota. Again, I enjoyed the interaction with the high schoolers providing a mentoring capacity teaching drill and Color Guard movements. My daughter did three years in their AFJROTC program; so, I got to go to drill meets and competitions which further expanded my awareness of the AJROTC program.

Close to retirement, I did fill out the AFJROTC application and was approved. Now it was just looking for an opening to where we would like to live. We wanted to move back to our hometown of Tallahassee, Florida, and so that’s where we went because my parents were now elderly.

As I mentioned I worked in Command Post. With my experience working in Command Post, I worked eight years with the Florida Highway Patrol as a dispatcher and trainer because there were no openings for an NCO instructor at the local high school that had the AFJROTC program. 

When we moved back to Tallahassee, I did contact Lt Col Ken David at Amos P. Godby High School to see if the ASI opening was available. Unfortunately, there wasn’t but he would keep my information when the ASI position became available. Eight years later I contacted him when the position became available and was quickly hired on. I worked with him for three years until he retired and now work with my new SASI; Lt Col Rodney Gumbish, and I continue to love what I do.

What is your philosophy of teaching?

I like to always give real life applications to curriculum taught -- hands on as much as possible. If there is a “case in point” or a “for example” moment with anything I teach, I always use it. Nothing is better than those “real life” moments (good or bad) for the students to see and hear about. That is one of our goals in AFJROTC: “Teaching Cadets to be better citizens for tomorrow.” We constantly stress the same Core Values as the Air Force: “Integrity First, Service Before Self, Excellence in all you do.” I always tell them, “If there is anything I want you to remember, it’s that.”

“Integrity” is the cornerstone because one must be honest in all they do -- from schoolwork, to working in life and with others. Your character does count and will be noticed. Giving “Service Before Self” means committing to anything besides what you want. One may have to do homework, prep their uniform for inspection, or do a chore before wanting to do something for fun. This also helps teach them discipline by staying focused on a particular task.

Finally, in whatever they do, one must give “Excellence in all they do.” Whatever you do in life, give it all you got. I always tell them, “Adhere to the Core Values in your life, and you will be successful and make better choices for yourself.”

Please describe how you used the STEM Kit Program in your classroom.

We used the AcuRite Weather Station to teach them how to read weather. After lessons about weather and learning how to use the weather station, we established a “Weather Team,” and before each class that person would brief what the current weather was. We taught that everything a person plans revolves around the weather. Whether it’s planning a weekend activity, doing drills procedures outside, and even planning PT events. This also coincided to using the skills of management, organizing, and planning for emergencies weather will cause such as storms and hurricanes.

How did the news stories with local weather casters develop?

We simply reached out to two local television stations asking if they could have a meteorologist come be a guest speaker to talk about all aspects of weather and even careers as a meteorologist. They were wonderfully accommodating, and the Cadets simply enjoyed having local television hosts in their classroom.

Again, having people of various careers be guest speakers gives our Cadets the ability to see all the career opportunities available to them. We even have a Cadet now serving in the Air Force as a meteorologist so that’s always exciting to refer to.

How many years have you been involved in Civil Air Patrol's educator membership program, and how did you become involved?

I have been involved for one year. I received an email stating there were STEM kits available to instructors to broaden the horizons for students. The weather curriculum was easy for me to learn as well as quite enjoyable once I started putting together my lesson.

Why do you teach in the Aerospace Education/STEM area?

I enjoy bringing 25 years of experience to the classroom as well as the educational knowledge I have learned.  As AFJROTC instructors, we teach what we have lived.

What do you and your students like about the STEM Kit program?

The direct kinesthetic ability to put into practice what the curriculum teaches.

What is the best advice you have for a new AFJROTC instructor working with CAP programs and materials?

Make sure to have other Cadets become leaders in a particular area. This teaches Cadets how delegation is important from the instructor to the student Cadet. It also builds a foundation for real-life situations they will face in work centers when managers and supervisors will need help with a particular situation as well as how they will need to also delegate responsibilities to reduce their own workload. This foundation will be a building block and learning tool for when they begin their career in the world.

Please tell an anecdote of a rewarding experience you have had working with students or colleagues using CAP programs:

Weather has been the only CAP program used so far. In the lecture we talked about ten different types of clouds. It’s always exciting to have a Cadet say, “Hey, Sarge. I think we have cumulus clouds today.” I’ll reply and say.  “Let’s look in our Weather Binder to compare the pictures and characteristics and see.” So, it’s always exciting to apply real life applications to curriculum taught.

Students pose with meteorologist Students pose with meteorologist Students and Sgt. Hardison pose with meteorologist

 A second local TV meteorologist who visited the Tallahassee school.


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