For three days from June 14th to June 16th, Farragut was host to the Association of Military Colleges and Schools of the United States (AMCSUS) Commandant’s Conference, an annual gathering of commandants from around the country. 16 commandants and their spouses attended, including our own Commandant Todd Wallingford and his wife, Kim York Wallingford.
“I think it was good for Farragut because we were able to get our brand out there,” Commandant Wallingford said. “A lot of attendees had never been to Farragut or seen our campus, including Ray Rottman who’s the executive director of AMCSUS. My goal was to put Farragut on the map and let people know that yes, we’re still a great military school and we appreciate everything that AMCSUS has done for us.”
On Wednesday, June 14th, the group met for a Welcome Dinner at The Club at Treasure Island. There, they enjoyed a prime rib carving station, as well as snapper and chicken dishes, as they met and got to know each other.
On Thursday, June 15th, the commandants and their wives were treated to a history and tour of Admiral Farragut Academy, with an introduction by RADM Mark Buzby, an alumnus of the class of 1975. The commandants and their spouses then split into two groups for a separate day of events.
Commandant Wallingford and the rest of the commandants attended presentations by RADM Buzby, the Area 7 Leadership Camp drill instructor, Farragut Director of Ancillary Programs Brian Chatterley, and Critical Intervention Services (the security company employed by Admiral Farragut Academy).
“Security is an issue for all commandants right now,” said Commandant Wallingford. “A lot of people don’t know which way to go. Universities have university police already, but the high schools and college prep schools are all over the place. Some have unarmed security and some just don’t have security at all. CIS did an outstanding job bringing in the mobile command center and presenting. It was very impressive and they learned a lot.”
The spouses went with Mrs. Wallingford to a host of fun activities, including a shopping trip at John’s Pass Village, lunch at The Hut, and a Dolphin Cruise, where they reported seeing around 25-30 dolphins.
The two groups met back up for a casual beach themed dinner party at Commandant Wallingford’s house. SAGE Dining provided a meal of heavy hors d’oeuvres including coconut shrimp, jumbo shrimp, flank steak sandwiches, couscous salad, chicken wings, and crab cakes, and there was a full bar available of assorted beers, wines, and cocktails. Farragut’s Dockmaster Dennis Collins was on hand with his band to play music, a mix of Jimmy Buffet as well as 70s and 80s hits. “Everyone was dancing and having a great time,” said Beverly Gonczar, office assistant to the commandant. “We got rained out of the backyard, but the party continued inside the house until 11 pm!”
“It was a time for relaxation,” said Commandant Wallingford. “Time to share stories about being a commandant and about being the wife of a commandant respectively. Everyone had a great time.”
On Friday, June 16th, the groups split off again. The commandants attended a presentation on live streaming events by Farragut Technology Director Joe Sloan followed with an open dialogue discussion. The spouses met for a social breakfast outing, where they had brunch at the Thunderbird Hotel on St. Pete Beach. They then met back up to receive their boxed lunches of sandwiches, apples, granola bars, and bottled waters before the conference ended.
“A lot of people don’t understand what the role of a commandant is,” Commandant Wallingford continued. “The commandant is responsible for the overall safety and wellbeing of all the cadets, from both an educational and a military standpoint. They wear a lot of hats. I was so glad everyone was able to learn from us and we were able to gather information from them as well. It was very productive and very fun.”
“The overall feedback I got was very positive,” Commandant Wallingford continued. “Commandant Mike Neller from Culver Academy said did a very nice job. He and others specifically mentioned that they thought the whole session was very well put together and organized.”