Bobbie O'Brien

Reporter/Producer

Bobbie O’Brien has been a Reporter/Producer at WUSF since 1991. She reports on general news topics in Florida and the Tampa Bay region.

Bobbie also produces the blog, Off the Base, and covers military affairs, veterans’ issues and military families. She was named a Rosalyn Carter Fellow in 2010-2011. She supervises WUSF’s news interns and frequently contributes to NPR programs.

Prior to joining WUSF, she worked at WTVT- TV as a researcher/segment producer, at the Tampa Tribune and at WFLA-TV. She attended Kent State University and earned her Bachelor of Arts degree in Mass Communications from the University of South Florida in 1980.

Her work has been honored by the Society of Professional Journalists, the Radio and Television News Directors Association, Public Radio News Directors Inc., American Women in Radio & Television, the Florida Associated Press and the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association.

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Off The Base
9:18 am
Fri August 29, 2014

A 'Golden Age' and New Leader for SOCOM

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, left, passes the U.S. Special Operations Command flag to incoming commander Army Gen. Joseph L. Votel III during a change-of-command ceremony in Tampa on Aug. 28.
Petty Officer 2nd Class Sean Hurt Department of Defense

The significance of the U.S. Special Operations Command, based at MacDill Air Force Base, can be measured by the fact that Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel came to Tampa for the change of command ceremony.

“As a testament to the growing demand for special operators, SOCOM has grown by almost 8,000 people over the last three years,” Hagel told an invited audience of hundreds, most in military uniform. “And its growth will continue even as other parts of our military drawdown.”

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Culture
8:30 am
Wed August 27, 2014

Comedy to Break Down Myths About Muslims

Comedian Negen Farsad is scheduled to appear at USF Thursday as part of the Building Bridges Project.
Credit Courtesy of Negin Farsad

A female Muslim comic is the opening act followed by a humorous documentary titled “The Muslims Are Coming” this week at the University of South Florida Tampa campus.

Are you smiling yet?

The dual events kick-off the two-year grant project, Building Bridges, that has the goal of using art to span the gap between the Muslim and non-Muslim worlds.

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Off The Base
7:22 am
Fri August 22, 2014

Bay Pines VA Summit on Mental Health

Bay Pines VA Healthcare System
Credit Bay Pines VA

Veterans mental health experts at Bay Pines VA Healthcare System admit the VA "can't do everything alone."

So, the Bay Pines VA is holding a mental health summit today, looking to community partners to help provide veteran services both inside and outside the VA System. Local mental health agencies, private health care organizations and some hospitals are expected to attend the invitation-only event.

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Off The Base
4:34 pm
Sat August 16, 2014

Stolen Motorcycle Returned to Iraq Veteran

Iraq veteran Paul Badillo, holding his daughter Mila, examines his rebuilt motorcycle presented to him by the Nam Knights Westside Motorcycle Club.
Bobbie O'Brien WUSF Public Media

UPDATE: Law enforcement provided an incomplete name for the Iraq veteran. His full name is Paul Badillo Rivera following the Hispanic tradition with two surnames. So, he is known as Paul Badillo.

When is a motorcycle more than just a ride? For Iraq veteran Paul Badillo, tinkering with the mechanics was a kind of therapy. It calmed him as much as a ride on the open road.

But his peace of mind was stolen from his apartment parking lot June 18, 2014.

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Off The Base
7:54 am
Fri August 15, 2014

Reaching Women Vets Is A Challenge

Female Veterans in Iraq. A New Resource for Female Vet on VA health care and benefits: 1-855-VA-WOMEN.
Credit Department of Veterans Affairs

What happens if you plan an event to honor women veterans and none of them come? That’s a real concern at the Disabled American Veterans Chapter 97 in Sarasota. The organization is planning a free event August 30th for the area’s women veterans, but so far, they’re having a tough time generating interest.

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Culture
8:25 am
Wed August 13, 2014

Emergency Director Recalls Hurricane Charley

An ariel photograph from FEMA showing the destruction of homes in Charlotte County.
FEMA

Many in the Tampa Bay area braced for what they thought would be a direct hit from Hurricane Charley ten years ago. But, the category 4 storm took a right turn and made a direct hit on Punta Gorda, Friday, August 13, 2004 at about 4:45 p.m. at least that’s when the town clock stopped according to Wayne Sallade, director of emergency operations for Charlotte County.

Back then, Sallade had 17 years of experience on the job, but nothing can really prepare one for the kind of destruction that Charley wrought.

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Culture
6:24 am
Wed August 13, 2014

Hurricane Charley Forges TEAM Punta Gorda

Punta Gorda Councilwoman Nancy Prafke is the former CEO of TEAM Punta Gorda.
Bobbie O'Brien WUSF Public Media

In a matter of hours August 13th, 2004, Hurricane Charley demolished historic downtown Punta Gorda. Quaint brick shops collapsed. Glass office buildings were blown out. Thousands of mobile homes disintegrated pounded by the 150 mph winds.

The next day, Wally Satar used a tow truck to pull apart twisted steel, engine blocks and welding tanks at his brother’s Mystic Gas Station. He was trying to salvage tools and anything that didn’t blow away.

The only thing left standing  was one wall and a white car perched atop the hydraulic lift.

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Off The Base
6:02 pm
Wed July 30, 2014

U.S. House Passes VA Reform Legislation

Chairman U.S. Rep. Jeff Miller during a hearing before the House Committee on Veterans Affairs.
Credit U.S. House of Representatives

Reform within the VA medical system is one step closer as the U.S. House of Representatives passed a compromise VA reform bill Wednesday afternoon.

The joint House and Senate legislation provides $10 Billion so veterans on waiting lists can seek care from private doctors. It also authorizes leases for 27 new medical facilities, including one in New Port Richey, and budgets $5 Billion to hire more VA doctors and medical staff.

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Off The Base
2:34 pm
Tue July 29, 2014

Relief for Military Victims of Predatory Lending

Holly Petraeus with the CFPB Office of Servicemember Affairs
Credit Photo by SSG Lorie Jewell, US Army. / Consumer Finance Protection Bureau

Some 17,000 service members nationwide and other consumers who were targeted by Rome Finance through unfair lending practices will not have to payoff their outstanding finance agreements according to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) and several state attorney generals.

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Florida Matters
4:09 pm
Tue July 22, 2014

What Passengers Say About the Future of Cruises at Port Tampa Bay

The Carnival Legend at Cruise Terminal #2
Bobbie O'Brien WUSF

Early Sunday morning, before the 2,000 passengers from cruise ship disembark, a line of taxi cabs forms outside Port of Tampa Bay Terminal #2 just beyond idling tour buses.

That’s where cab driver John Bailey stood waiting for fares.  He’s fully aware of the cruise ship debate and the options explored in a recent study.

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Off The Base
7:36 am
Fri July 18, 2014

Teen Volunteers Spend Vacation at Haley VA

Youth volunteer Mairyn Harris, 14, and James A. Haley VA Medical Center Director Kathleen Fogarty inside the new USO Day Room.
Credit Tessa Wiseman / WUSF Public Media

When teachers ask this fall, “What did you do on your summer vacation?”  nearly four dozen Tampa teenagers will answer, “I spent it at the James A. Haley VA Hospital.”

For more than a decade, Haley has been operating a summer Youth Volunteer program that gives teenagers insight into health care careers while at the same time helping veterans.

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Off The Base
6:17 am
Wed July 16, 2014

Job Events for Veterans, Military Families

Veterans and military family members looking for a job or a new career – today is your day. Several Florida state agencies are sponsoring Paychecks for Patriots.

There are 18 hiring events planned throughout Florida Wednesday, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. organized by the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity, the Florida Department of Veterans’ Affairs, Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve (ESGR), and the Florida National Guard.

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Off The Base
1:17 pm
Wed July 9, 2014

Air Force Tradition: A Final Flight Drenching

Col. Scott DeThomas is saluted at the end of his final flight in the Air Force as he brings the KC-135 Stratotanker to a stop on the MacDill Air Force Base tarmac.
Credit Bobbie O'Brien / w

At times, being a reporter can be fun, especially when you get to cover life-changing events like the final flight of an Air Force pilot.

Someday I'll know what it's like to leave behind a profession that I'm passionate about and have invested much of my life to. That's what Col. Scott DeThomas is preparing to do as commander of the 6th Air Mobility Wing and MacDill Air Force Base.

After 32 years in the military, 23 of them as an Air Force pilot, DeThomas is retiring.

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Off The Base
5:58 pm
Tue July 8, 2014

MacDill Commander Makes His Final Flight

Col. Scott DeThomas is all laughs after taking his drenching. He logged more than 3,000 flight hours in nine different aircraft before retiring.
Bobbie O'Brien WUSF Public Media

The most visible face of Tampa's MacDill Air Force Base, 6th Air Mobility Wing Commander Col. Scott DeThomas, is retiring in August.

His final flight as an Air Force pilot was today when he brought a KC-135 Stratotanker in for a landing shortly after 1 p.m. It is one of nine different aircraft he's piloted for more than 3,000 hours flight time in the Air Force.

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Off The Base
10:36 pm
Sat July 5, 2014

Veterans Open Mic for Stories, Poetry, Music

Credit NPR

What better way for veterans to celebrate Independence Day weekend than with an Open Mic Event?

It's a chance to tell stories, recite poetry, share reflections and music.

Sponsored by the Art2Action Inc. and Sacred Grounds Coffee House, the monthly Veterans & Community Open Mic is this Sunday, July 6, 2014 from 6:30-9 p.m. at the Sacred Grounds Coffee House, 4819 E. Busch Blvd., Tampa, FL.

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