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How did Jill Kelley become a 'Friend of MacDill?'

7:25 PM, Nov 15, 2012   |    comments
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South Tampa, Florida -- In 2010, four months after Gen. David Petraeus left Tampa, Jill Kelley was given a special pass allowing her to cruise through security at MacDill Air Force Base.

Whether it was her volunteer work or personal relationships, that privilege has now been revoked.

A quick trip to the visitor center at MacDill and you soon realize getting through the gate that guards Central Command isn't so easy. There are long lines. Questions. ID requirements.

"Driver's license, insurance. They don't just let anyone on," said one woman emerging from the office with a pass.

To cut through the red tape and escort process, you could flash a "Friends of MacDill" pass, but they're given to only about 800 civilians in the entire community.

It's the type of pass Jill Kelley had... but no longer.

"Everybody does go through a security check, obviously, before you're given any kind of access," said Teresa Foss. And Foss should know. She is a liaison among liaisons at MacDill.

Not just a "friend," Foss leads the South Tampa Chamber of Commerce Military relations effort. She's also on the military affairs committee. She's an honorary commander at the base.

Like so many other Friends of MacDill, Foss has spent countless selfless hours asking people here what she can do for them. Not the other way around, as seemed to be suggested by this week's events.

Foss is borderline offended by the "partying with brass"  impression created this week  and the potential to undermine their important work.

"People seeking notoriety and rubbing shoulders with the top brass on MacDill... I would say 99% of the people involved in the friends of MacDill program are not looking for that," said Foss.

In fact, Foss says the pass is more of a perk. A convenience that allows them to work on programs that bring food and needed supplies to new arrivals and enlisted personnel.

They occasionally host dinners for high-ranking officials. She's met a general or two as well. But it's all about forging good relationships and making a good impression. Not personal gain, she says.

The gate-pass, says Foss, is hardly a party permit or invitation to military getaways.

Compare that description with rumors Jill Kelley joined top commanders on trips flying out of MacDill to Afghanistan and other locations.

A source at MacDill tells 10 News they spoke with half a dozen people who would have known about such flights, and they are "99% sure that never happened."

Still, there's the scandal. The emails. The photos at high-dollar parties. The special license plates and arrogance of perceived privilege.

All of it may have given the Friends of MacDill program a black eye.

But it's a bruise true "friends" like Teresa Foss hope won't undermine the civilian-military relationship they've worked so hard for.

"I think it's probably one of the best programs we have in the Tampa area," said Foss.

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