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DSN: 338-7811
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You CAN Go Home Again

Sandra Teall, AMHS Journalism Teacher
ANSBACH, Germany | December 16, 2014

USAF SSgt. Joe McFadden spoke to students on Nov. 20, at Ansbach Middle High School.
McFadden is a 2003 graduate of Ansbach High School and photo journalist stationed at Spangdahlem AFB, Germany.

USAF SSgt. Joe McFadden spoke to students on Nov. 20, at Ansbach Middle High School. McFadden is a 2003 graduate of Ansbach High School and photo journalist stationed at Spangdahlem AFB, Germany. | Photo: Sandra Teall, AMHS Journalism Teacher

"You can't go home again."In his book with the same title, author Thomas Wolfe penned this phrase to describe the disoriented feeling that people often get when they try to return home after many years and find things are not the same.

For SSgt. Joe McFadden, nothing could be further from the truth.McFadden graduated from Ansbach High School in Ansbach, Germany in June 2003.After enlisting in the USAF and being assigned to Spangdahlem AFB in Germany, the San Antonio, TX native decided he wanted to come back to his home away from home--Ansbach MHS.Twelve years since he graduated, Joe decided to check out Ansbach MHS and see how much it had changed.On November 20, 2014, McFadden visited the school and spoke to seniors, student council, social studies, journalism, and AVID classes.He wanted to have an opportunity to speak to students about how his experiences at the school have prepared him with helpful life skills for college and the Air Force.

What McFadden found surprised him—not much had changed in 12 years.

Many of the same teachers still teach at the school.The classrooms look similar, except for the surprise of WI-FI routers and student laptop computers.McFadden observed that the Cougars' school spirit remains high, and student organizations continue to promote leadership.

When McFadden was at a senior at Ansbach MHS, he was student council president and won the prestigious Model U.S. Senate Youth Award, #1 in all of DoDEA.

He was also a two-time Model United Nations ambassador, and an international student leadership regent, the first one from Ansbach in 20 years.McFadden recalls walking through the streets of The Hague, Holland, with his Model United Nations teacher who said, "You're lucky to be here at Ansbach HS because if you were at Canyon HS in San Antonio, Texas, you'd be only one of 1500 students."McFadden likes to say, "Every Texan has two homes:his own and San Antonio . . . I have one. Yet Ansbach has always been another home to me."

As a result of what McFadden learned during his days at Ansbach HS, he served as a Congressional intern to U.S. Representative Mac Thornberry, the incoming chair of the U.S. Armed Services Committee.Before becoming a photo journalist with the USAF, McFadden earned a B.A. in Political Science and his M.A. in International Relations after enlisting in the Air Force. He plans to embark on a PhD in International Relations within the next year.McFadden has traveled to many countries, including Japan, Israel, and numerous European countries on news assignments for Air Force publications.In 2009, he won the "Outstanding New Writer" Award for the entire USAF publications, after only three months on the job."I have been able to add to my high school accomplishments as a result of what I learned herein Ansbach."

McFadden shared with the Class of 2015 a "message of reflection and focus, not only as a sergeant but as a former student."Senior Roger Brownell said, "His ideas from student council in 2003 impact the school, even today, as he still affects the direction of our student leadership."

"To the Class of 2015, Joe coming to talk with us was a 'hug blessing,' and we are so grateful," said Senior Hannah Shedden.Sophomore Alyssa Saunders said, "As an aspiring writer, I was inspired by Joe to reach the heights he has achieved and to grasp any opportunity thrown at me."

For McFadden, returning to Ansbach MHS was like a dream come true.Coming back to Germany "means the world to me.I'm grateful to the U.S. Army for the first time and the USAF for the second time."


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