The Colgate Scene
March 2005

People on the go

Heidi Brennan '99
[Photo courtesy of Heidi Brennan]

Heidi Brennan '99 can't talk about everything she does as a U.S. Air Force intelligence analyst.

What she can say is that the work she does, whether it's in the Middle East, South Korea, or Alaska, is meant to ensure the safety of pilots and air crews flying missions around the globe.

"Providing them with briefings before they go out to fly in a perilous situation, giving them the current intel they need to know, is really the most rewarding thing," said Brennan.

A captain, Brennan has been with the Air Force for six years and is stationed at Elmendorf Air Force Base, Alaska. She will be deployed soon, and while she hasn't been told where, it likely will be Iraq.

She has already spent time in the Persian Gulf region, serving four months at Al Dhafra Air Base in the United Arab Emirates. She arrived there in November 2003; a month later, Saddam Hussein was captured.

"I was in the gym, which was in a tent, when they made the announcement. There were a lot of free drinks on the wing commander that night," she said.

Brennan worked closely with an Italian Air Force C-130 squadron while at Al Dhafra, helping them to access coalition flying schedules. In return, she said, the Italians helped deliver 300 backpacks -- filled with school supplies that Brennan and other U.S. military members had donated -- to children in Iraq.

Besides the UAE, she spent 18 months at Osan Air Base in South Korea, which is 45 miles south of the DMZ. From November 2001 to May 2003, she provided support for U-2s, A-10s, and F-16s.

Brennan, who is pursuing a master's in aeronautical engineering, went to officer training school six months after graduating from Colgate with a bachelor's in geology. Her degree has been valuable in ways she didn't always expect.

"We work on targeting missions, and in order to do that properly, you have to understand geological factors: Is it bedrock or sandy sediment? How far will the bomb penetrate? Geology helped with that a lot. And being able to read different kinds of maps has helped me immensely," she said.

Brennan was well aware of what it takes to be in the Air Force. Her father, David, is a retired Air Force lawyer.

"We really did travel the world -- Germany, Spain, all over the place. I wanted to live that lifestyle myself, so that's why I ended up joining the Air Force," she said.
— Tim O'Keeffe


Bob Raiber '68
[Photo courtesy of Bob Raiber]

It is a long way from Dr. Bob Raiber's dental practice at Rockefeller Center to Hooper Bay, Alaska.

Raiber, Class of 1968, spanned the distance last spring on a trip sponsored by the American Dental Association, but it can't be measured merely in miles. An estimated 100,000 Alaskan youngsters are far below the national dental norm -- indeed, their mouths are disaster areas.

Hooper Bay, a remote village on the Bering Sea with a population of 1,200, is one of 80 similar but widely scattered native enclaves. Accessible only by plane, the villagers subsist by hunting and fishing. It has no industry, little health care, and virtually no running water in private homes. Without plumbing, few of the natives have developed a routine of brushing their teeth. The second head on the dragon victimizing village children is the invasion of soft drink companies that build gymnasiums in exchange for the right to sell sodas. Most kids are drinking eight to 10 cans a day.

Raiber saw the results in the smiles of patients who eagerly awaited the arrival of his plane.

"It was mind-blowing. Their teeth were rotting. They were blackened, some were broken, some were falling out. I took the kids in the most pain and tried to relieve it," said Raiber, who typically managed to treat 15 patients a day for the week he spent there. There was no time for cleanings or fluoride treatments, although Raiber did place sealants on six- and 12-year molars. He slept in an examining room, and the only extended break he had was an hour of ice fishing.

"It seems that if you had two dentists working nonstop for about three months, you could bring the population of Hooper Bay into a good state of oral health," Raiber wrote in the NYS Dental Association newsletter.

"I was very troubled. I heard from tribal leaders that when they exchanged their lands they were promised health care by the government. They feel betrayed. The native villages are at a point where they are about to change. There is no running water, but there is satellite TV, and the kids are aware of the outside world," said Raiber, who heard repeatedly, "Oh, you're from New York. Do you know Donald Trump?"

Putting a cruel accent on the problem is the success of the educational system. "The schools are doing a great job, and many of these kids are going to be able to go to college," said Raiber, who is all too aware of the difficulties they will face with rotting teeth.

With so much more to do -- Raiber estimates he and a fellow volunteer saw only 200 of the 1,200 villagers -- he is eager to return. The people were friendly and appreciative, the children well-behaved, and the need is obviously pressing.

"I'm waiting now to see if I can return in April," said Raiber.
— John D. Hubbard


Neva Day '91
[Photo by Action Sports International]

It took 12 hours and 29 minutes for Neva Day '91 to redefine her conception of perseverence.

On October 15, 2004, the champion triathlete was riding her bike in final preparation for a monumental task -- she had qualified for the 2004 Ironman World Championships in Kona, Hawaii, the next day -- when she was struck by a car.

"Nine months of training flashed before my eyes," said Day. "I was very damaged goods, with a separated shoulder and severe bruising to my left leg, but decided to show up on Saturday for the spirit of what the race embodies. The Hawaii Ironman is an unbelievable race experience, and it is such an honor to be one of the 1,500 racers, I couldn't miss the opportunity to try to start."

The Manhattan Beach, Calif., resident, who races for TeamQdot, did far more than just show up.

"The physios had taped me up and worked on me for a few hours. They thought I could manage a few strokes in the water, and then I would call it a day," she said.

To Day's own disbelief, and that of everyone who knew her situation, she somehow kept stroking, finishing the 2.4 mile swim with a time of 1:18. She got on her bicycle (she'd had it rebuilt, just in case) and pushed through the 112-mile bike leg in six hours, 11 minutes.

Then, although she could barely walk, she got herself re-taped in the medical tent.

"I resolved I would walk the marathon and finish what I started," Day said. "I calculated how long it would take, and it came to about eight hours, which would bring me across the finish line in time [there is a 17-hour cutoff]. The thought of being on my leg for another eight hours made me ill, so I decided to try to run. Somehow, I managed a run/walk marathon [26.2 miles] in four hours and forty-six minutes and crossed the finish line." Despite her injuries, 12 hours and 29 minutes after she started, Day had completed the Ironman triathlon.

"Everyone will hurt at some point, but to hurt from the first stroke, and to gut it out for the entire day, is something I would never have expected myself to do," said Day, who runs her own general contracting construction company, NBD Enterprises. "I truly have never been happier in my whole racing career in crossing the finish line. It was really a miracle, and the experience is inexplicable."
— Rebecca Costello

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