Love for water deepens connection to son

Lisa Schappacher is a management and program analyst at Hypervelocity Wind Tunnel 9.

Lisa Schappacher is a management and program analyst at Hypervelocity Wind Tunnel 9.

A launch boat driver is seen in the background as a crew boat is leaving the dock to row up river.  Lisa Schappacher’s son, Michael, is seated behind the coxswain of the boat. (Photo provided)

A launch boat driver is seen in the background as a crew boat is leaving the dock to row up river. Lisa Schappacher’s son, Michael, is seated behind the coxswain of the boat. (Photo provided)

ARNOLD AIR FORCE BASE, Tenn. -- As long as she can remember, Tunnel 9's Lisa Schappacher, has loved the water. 

From a very early age her father and grandfather, who were avid fishermen, started taking her with them on their fishing trips to the Potomac River and Chesapeake Bay. 

"When I was old enough they taught me how to drive the boat," she said. "That way they could catch most of the fish." 

Ironically, Schappacher's husband Scott gets sea sick, so needless to say they do not take many water adventures, but she holds out hope for her oldest son, Michael, who expresses the same love of water. 

So when the opportunity arose to serve as a launch boat driver for his high school crew races, she jumped at the chance. 

"When the position was offered up, I decided it would be a good way for me to participate," she said. "In addition to launch boat driving, I'm now involved in the fundraising aspect of the sport." 

Launch boat drivers are responsible for clearing the river of floating debris, setting out the lane markers, following crew races with a referee on board, assisting the referee in timing the race or serve as a safety boat to ensure the race lanes are cleared of the boats from the prior race. 

"Being a launch boat driver provides you with the best seat in the house," she explained. "It gives you the opportunity to see the rowers from a different perspective; the sport is a lot more demanding than people are aware. It also provides me with the opportunity to spend time with my son and contribute to his love of the water and this sport." 

The school is required to provide parents to serve as launch boat drivers, marshals, timers, dock masters, etc., for each of the races. 

"Crew is very much a team sport that requires almost as much from the parents as from the rowers," Schappacher said. It therefore is strengthening my skills in working with other people, both parents and rowers, and accomplishing the goal of building a better, stronger and financially sound crew team. 

Schappacher can use these skills in her work as a management and program analyst at Tunnel 9. There, she works with the General Services Administration (GSA), Federal Protective Service (FPS), Army Research Lab (ARL), Air Force Office of Special Investigation (AFOSI) as well as many other federal agencies in obtaining services for Tunnel 9. 

Hypervelocity Wind Tunnel 9, located in Silver Spring, Md., provides aerodynamic simulation in the critical altitude regimes associated with strategic offensive missile systems, advanced defensive interceptor systems, and hypersonic vehicle technology. 

Because Tunnel 9 does not have all of the local support services that Arnold Air Force Base does, they must utilize these other federal agencies for support in the areas of infrastructure maintenance, utilities, guard contract services, CAC card issuance, foreign travel briefings, etc. 

These duties are in addition to providing program and financial analysis support services to the site director and business area managers, and establishing policy and guidelines for the physical and information security programs at Tunnel 9. 

She was at Tunnel 9 from 1986 to 1996 when it was under the Department of the Navy where she worked in the Weapon Dynamics Division as a secretary and Reentry Systems Branch as a program analyst. 

Prior to working at Tunnel 9, she worked as a personnel assistant in the Navy's Personnel Department. 

"This position afforded me the ability to work with personnel across the center and become knowledgeable of the different departments and test facilities on site, including Tunnel 9," she said. 

When the base closed due to the Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) act,  Schappacher decided to take time off and spend it with her family. In 2003, after all her children were in school full-time, Schappacher took a position back at Tunnel 9. 

To challenge herself and her skills, Schappacher plans to try her hand at rowing later this spring. 

"Even knowing how physically demanding rowing crew is, there is something very enticing about it," she said. "Seeing the rowers working as a team, navigating the boat on the river and witnessing the excitement they have for the sport is truly infectious. It would also be a great way for me to spend additional time on the water and to keep in shape."