Civic leader tour takes flight
By Senior Airman Abigail Klein, 22nd Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs
/ Published April 28, 2011
MCCONNELL AIR FORCE BASE, Kan. -- Twenty-six Kansas civic leaders witnessed Air Mobility Command's mission firsthand when they recently toured its headquarters at Scott Air Force Base, Ill., and Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, N.J.
With the recent onset of tasking for Libya and AMC's continuing participation in today's fight, the tour gave the civic leaders a chance to learn about the relevancy and importance of the Air Force's role in combat. This was the first McConnell Civic Leader Tour conducted since 2004.
While on the two-day tour, which began April 19 with a KC-135 Stratotanker flight to Scott, the civic leaders were able to meet with Lt. Gen. Vern M. "Rusty" Findley II, AMC vice commander, and listen to briefings by U.S. Transportation Command and 18th Air Force Operations.
The briefings were revealing for the civic leaders, as some members have little or no military background.
"To actually see the [Air Force] in action was a real eye-opener," said Jason Opat, Integrated Media Group Chief Executive officer. "You don't realize just how interconnected military members have to be in order to get the job done."
After visiting Scott, the civic leaders were then flown to Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst. The base was unique for the leaders as it is one of the few Air Force bases recently united with the Navy, Marines and Army, as a result of the 2005 Base Realignment and Closure legislation.
While there, the leaders met newly "pinned" Brig. Gen. Gina Grasso, Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst and 87th Air Base Wing commander, visited the U. S. Air Force Expeditionary Center, the 621st Contingency Response Wing and the New Jersey Army National Guard Battle Lab.
The locations allowed the leaders to view and participate in the field training required of both Airmen and Soldiers before they deploy. This included rides in both a Mine Resistant Ambush Protected Vehicle and Humvee roll-over simulator, as well as the chance to "fire" military weapons with the Virtual Interactive Combat Environment Trainer - a system that provides a realistic set of battle-like exercises.
The last stop of the tour included a viewing of rational "Airpower," a tour of both a C-17 Globemaster, a KC-10 Extender and a KC-135 in-flight refueling.
"Because I see lots of patients from McConnell, I wanted to learn more about what they do and get a greater appreciation for what they do for their country," said Justin Strickland, Derby, Kan., orthopedic surgeon. "This tour was very in depth and though I've always had a great appreciation for the military, the tour has exponentially increased my appreciations for them and what they do for our country."
The importance of having the civic leaders physically be a part of the AMC mission was the goal of the visit.
"We work for the tax payer and they have a right to know where their tax dollars are going," said General Grasso. "When the community that supports you doesn't know what you're doing, that's not good. "[As Airmen] we have to be good community partners by being part of the community, and you can only do that if you have a relationship, so they can understand what you are doing for your nation. The tours also show [servicemembers] that community members do care that they are serving."