Who’s Packing Your Parachute?

Doug Clark
Interim CEO
Transportation Intermediaries Association

In 1997, Bob Voltmann became President and CEO of TIA. The association was a shell of what it has become today. His career and background as a political influencer helped shape the association in becoming the domestic and international voice of the transportation industry. His presence and involvement helped shape transportation policy on the Hill and provided exposure to services and education that TIA Members needed to run successful businesses.

It is always a tough decision for an executive, like Bob, to move on after accomplishing his goals. We wish him well in his new endeavors.

We have grown our association through the involvement of our staff, members and associates through involvement and participation in committees, and the commitment of time, energy, and personal resources to help us grow.

Our Executive Committee includes Brian Evans, Mike Riccio, Mark Christos, Lynn Gravely, Russell Leo, Rob Kemp, and past chair Jason Beardall, who have been outstanding in assisting in this transition of leadership. Staff members Cindy Amos, Chris Burroughs, Polly Bond, Valerie and Roberta Sumner, Mitch Weintraub, Richard Gluck, and Norris Beren have also provided positive support in this transition.

In the beginning, the board involvement was one that met twice a year to implement changes. Your past chairmen, staff, associates, members, and committees have helped influence what TIA has become. Every one of our former chairs has helped to develop and grow both the membership and visibility of TIA. One person does not drive the growth of an association. 

We have had many curveballs with the cancellation of the conference in April and now August, as it is just not feasible to have a gathering with the enormous attendance that we typically have at our conference. For the Technovations event in San Antonio, we are looking at a way to combine attendance with a hybrid of on-site and virtual participation. If we have the assurance of safety, we will have a spectacular conference in April of 2021 in Phoenix.

My direction by the Executive Committee is to be engaged with our members, provide education, transparency, and represent you through policy on Capitol Hill. Involvement and support have driven the success of TIA. The undercurrent that drives the passion and economic engine is the involvement of the members and staff. This reminds me of the story of Charles Plum which I read long ago. 

Charles Plumb, a U.S. Naval Academy graduate, was a jet fighter pilot in Vietnam. After 75 combat missions, his plane was destroyed by a surface-to-air missile. Plumb ejected and parachuted into enemy hands.

He was captured and spent six years in a Communist prison. He survived that ordeal and now lectures about lessons learned from that experience.

One day, when Plumb and his wife were sitting in a restaurant, a man at another table came up and said, “You’re Plum! You flew jet fighters in Vietnam from the aircraft carrier Kitty Hawk. You were shot down!”

“How in the world did you know that?” asked Plumb. “I packed your parachute,” the man replied.

Plumb gasped in surprise and gratitude. The man pumped his hand and said, “I guess it worked!” Plumb assured him, “It sure did. If your parachute hadn’t worked, I wouldn’t be here today.”

Plumb could not sleep that night, thinking about that man. Plumb said, “I kept wondering what he might have looked like in a Navy uniform—a Dixie cup hat, a bib in the back, and bell-bottom trousers. I wondered how many times I might have passed him on the Kitty Hawk. I wondered how many times I might have seen him and not even said ‘Good morning, how are you?’ or anything because, you see, I was a fighter pilot and he, well he was just a sailor.”

Plumb thought of the many hours the sailor had spent on a long wooden table in the bowels of the ship carefully weaving the shrouds and folding the silks of each chute, holding in his hands each time the fate of someone he didn’t know.

Plumb now asks at the end of his lectures, “Who is packing your parachute?”

The people packing the parachute of the TIA are the Members, Staff, and Associates who make this organization the world-class leaders of the Transportation Industry.

Doug Clark     

Excerpt from Who Packs Your Parachute? by Capt. Charles Plumb, Ret. U.S. Navy.