MCCONNELL AIR FORCE BASE, Kan. – What happens inside the gates of McConnell is usual, everyday business to the Airmen that work there, but for most of the outside community it is a complete mystery.
The Honorary Commander program not only enables civic leaders to learn about McConnell’s mission and the Airmen that make it possible, it helps build a relationship between the base and the local community.
“Honorary commanders are invited to work with their commander, to come on base and see what their unit does,” said Leigh Bellinger, 22nd Air Refueling Wing chief of community relations. “It goes both ways, the honorary commander can invite the commander to their place of business so they can shadow and see what they do.”
Having the connection between the McConnell and community allows for a stronger bond to be built between the civic leaders and the Air Force.
“This program means being a part of something much bigger than myself,” said Kathy Bond, 22nd Air Refueling Wing honorary commander. “I get to see a different perspective of what the Airmen do every day and I realize that they are just people too.”
Being an honorary commander means more than just getting to come on base. They not only engage, but are educated and empowered to be an advocate for the Air Force, Airmen and their Families.
Kara Hunt, 22nd Operational Medical Readiness Squadron honorary commander, said her favorite part of being an honorary commander is what she gets to experience and learn such as building relationships with Airmen, attending events and learning what McConnell’s Airmen do every day.
“It also allows you to build fantastic relationships and makes you realize that the base is such a tremendous asset to the community.”
After learning what the Airmen of McConnell do, these civic leaders then have a chance to spread the word throughout the community and let them know what goes on behind the gates.
“Everything about the program is amazing,” said Hunt. “Learning everything the Airmen go through every day, it makes you gain a whole new respect for them. I think it is my job to learn things about the base and go to the community to advocate.”
McConnell has 31 honorary commanders to support units across the installation.
“The honorary commander program at McConnell isn’t different than any other base, but what sets us apart is that we have such an amazing community,” said Bellinger.
Bond said that there is nothing better than seeing the joy on an Airman’s face when she is there to help them with whatever they need whether it’s advice, a laugh or bringing them treats.
“I am so proud and honored to serve the men and women of McConnell,” said Bond. “I wouldn’t trade this privilege for anything.”