by CHRIS ROGERS
One of the highest ranking Winonans currently serving in the U.S. military and the leader of the Army Reserve Aviation Command, Brigadier General Scott Morcomb is used to telling some 5,000 soldiers in 12 different states what to do. Between his family life and his other job — flying commercial jets — Morcomb is used to getting those soldiers and 192 airplanes and helicopters ready for conflict and emergency. But hosting a bowl game — Morcomb’s latest duty — is a new one.
Morcomb served as an officer in an intelligence battalion during the first Iraq War and earned a Bronze Star for heroic service in combat, but his latest assignment is down in San Antonio, Texas, where the only scrimmaging will be teenage lineman wrestling under the glare of television cameras. Morcomb is overseeing the behind-the-scenes logistics of the U.S. Army All-America Bowl. This Saturday, the football game will pit all-star high school student athletes from across the U.S. against each other.
The game is a big marketing and recruiting platform for the Army, and it is an honor for the young people named to the “East” and “West” all-American squads and to the game’s all-star marching band. Some of the picks for past teams went on to become Heisman Trophy winners and National Football League stars. Morcomb said the event aims to promote and celebrate Army values: teamwork, duty, respect, integrity, and selfless service. The high school all-Americans are picked partly for these traits, and during the week leading up to the game, they are each paired up with a soldier-mentor who is supposed to help guide the young players and further model those characteristics.
“The Army’s got a civic duty to be good citizens,” Morcomb explained. “At first, we measured success of this [bowl game] by recruiting, but that’s really not it,” he continued. “Good citizens helping our youth grow up and have some mentorship and good examples is [the point].”
What is it like to go from leading 5,000 soldiers to orchestrating the Army Bowl? “I don’t know, if it’s ‘congratulations.’ We’ll see after eight days of helping to put this on,” Morcomb joked last week. “But I’m excited and my team is excited to do this.”
“It actually fits in nicely,” Morcomb added, answering seriously. He explained that as a citizen-soldier in the Army Reserve who lives in Winona — not on an Army base — he is a fitting choice to lead an outreach to civilians. “As a traditional citizen-soldier for the last 20 years, I do bring that experience and understanding for what it is to do both,” he said.
Morcomb’s father worked his way up to become a high-ranking engineer at IBM despite his lack of a college degree. Morcomb himself graduated from Winona State University and climbed the Army chain of command before being promoted to the rank of one-star general in 2015. “It was something I never expected, and to be honest, for the most part, for 28 years, really never aspired to,” Morcomb said. “Every day I just kind of pinch myself. It inspires me, being around the whole team — seeing what our great soldiers and citizens are doing every day and are capable of,” he continued. “It’s kind of the American dream, if I can do it,” he added. “I tell the junior officers, ‘Keep plugging away, keep aspiring … and by God, you can get lucky.”
Asked what he sees in the young people of the country, Morcomb said, “I think we have students and young adults that are smarter, better than ever. We have some problems in our communities. Drugs are a big one. That’s the biggest reason that disqualifies people from being eligible to join the military. But believe me, we have a high number of highly-skilled adults.” He continued, “I’ve got 18, 19, 20-year-old kids that are in Afghanistan right now, who are flying and fixing complex machines … I tell you, they are capable and there is bright future of young America.”
The Army Bowl will be aired on NBC this Saturday at noon.