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Navy captain thanks students for their resolve

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Tanner speaks at every county school to promote April as the Month of the Military Child

FALLON – Navy Capt. Shane Tanner knows first-hand the challenges of balancing a career with the responsibilities of providing for his family, thus extolling the importance of honoring April as the Month of the Military Child.

Tanner, a native of New York state and a 1998 graduate of Texas A&M University, took command of Naval Air Station Fallon in March 2022. His operational tours during his 25-year career have spanned the east and west coasts, Japan and Europe and previous assignments at NAS Fallon. He and his wife are the parents of three daughters now attending Texas A&M.

Tanner spoke at every elementary and secondary school in the county last week, emphasizing the importance of welcoming military children into the community. Compared to the other communities in Nevada, Churchill County has a robust military presence as home to NAS Fallon and the Naval Aviation Warfighting Development Center, as well as to many retirees and members of the Nevada Air and Army National Guard.

Tanner’s message resonated more in the secondary schools because many military children have moved upward to 12 times during a parent’s career, a figure he likens to the 12 grades of school beginning with first grade and ending at high school graduation. Dependent students in grades 7-12 at Oasis Academy and Churchill County have moved multiple times in the United States or to a foreign country.

Tanner put life into perspective by using last week’s eclipse as a starting point.

“Who took the time to check out the sun?” Tanner asked. “Isn’t it just amazing? Do you guys appreciate an eclipse?”

During the next 20 minutes and not using notes, Tanner engaged the high school students by describing the universe’s vastness and fragility and comparing it to the Navy’s base in Fallon.

“There are problems in the world everywhere,” he said. “This place in Fallon, Nevada, directly impacts us from all those problems.”

Four weeks ago, Gov. Joe Lombardo visited the air station to learn more about the Navy’s function in the desert. Tanner said he wished the students could hear all the problems affecting the world.

“It’s not fun, but remember, our country appreciates the fragility of life and the importance of we are all each other has,” he said. “The Declaration of Independence — we pledge to each other our lives to see how this county is built, and this democracy, the Constitution and Bill of Rights protects all of our freedoms.”

Tanner said the mission in Fallon matters, especially when residents hear the jets roaring overhead or the SEALs squeezed into big, armored vehicles rolling out into the desert. He said it’s unfortunate that the country needs those people and tools to preserve the nation’s freedom and Constitution and have pilots and sailors constantly training.

“Look at your watches,” Tanner told the students. “Ninety days from now, they (pilots and crews) will be parked off in the South China Sea or the Persian Gulf or Arabian Sea at the very edge of freedom. Ninety days, and they’re gone.”

Tanner turned his attention to the students sitting before him. He asked how many have a military tie. Numbers varied from more than 100 hundred at Numa Elementary to a few at Churchill County Middle School. Many students have attended Churchill County school for fewer than three years. Tanner said parents think about schools on an impending transfer to another rea.

“I got to take care of my kids. I got to do the best for my kids,” Tanner said, adding, “If not for the kids, what are we doing here in the first place?”

Tanner said many students new to Fallon also have experienced living in a foreign country. He re-emphasized his affinity for western Nevada.

“I love this place,” he said, “This is a great community. A lot of people (who have left (on tours) return here.”

Tanner said high-school students are changing schools at a critical time in their lives, and they adapt. While parents raise their hands to volunteer, Tanner said their children are “voluntold.” Sometimes, in a student’s last few years in secondary school, a parent or perhaps both may be on their last tour of 18 to 20 months. The NAS Fallon commander said those students remain resilient.

“I guarantee you they are a committed part of this community,” Tanner added.

He encouraged students who meet a new classmate from a military family to give them a fist bump and a smile. Tanner also praised the students who have lived in Fallon all their lives and made new friends with the military dependents.

Tanner paused for a few seconds and looked directly at the students: “Extending the hand strengthens the community and gives everyone the focus they need to do their job and making sure we have the freedoms we have.”

Steve Ranson
Steve Ranson
Steve Ranson is Editor Emeritus of the Lahontan Valley News.

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