The Air Bridge: Connecting to civic neighbors

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. David Bernal Del Agua
  • 22nd Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs
The Honorary Commander program is designed to bring the base closer to our civilian counterparts in Wichita, Kansas, and other surrounding communities.

Honorary commanders can be doctors, business owners, mayors, professors, police chiefs or others that are well respected in their respective fields and communities.

“The ultimate goal of all of this is to inform and educate the local community about McConnell,” said Leigh Bellinger, 22nd Air Refueling Wing community relations chief. “The honorary commanders help spread the word about all the great things happening here. And there are lots of great things happening on base.”

One of these honorary commanders is Dr. Arlen Honts, Chair at the Division of Business and Information Technology in the College of Business, Arts, Sciences, and Education at Friends University in Wichita.

“Dr. Arlen Honts has been an awesome honorary commander,” said Lt. Col. Jasmin Silence, 350th Air Refueling Squadron, also known as the Red Falcons, commander. “He has been at every squadron event, brought us donuts to support our Airmen and brought in friends with interesting hobbies (he even managed to bring a Falconer to the squadron.)”

Honts, a native of Bartlesville, Oklahoma, joined the faculty of Friends University in 2004 and he’s also the president of the Rotary Club of Wichita.

“Being the honorary commander for the 350th [ARS] has quickly become one of the activities that I make a priority in my schedule,” said Honts. “The interactions I have with Airmen of all ranks have shown me what great character we have in the Air Force.”

Honorary commanders usually serve a two-three year term where the hope is they will make an impact on the squadron and vice versa. Honts has been an honorary commander since 2015.

“The 350th [ARS] has welcomed me as one of their own,” said Honts. “This has given me great insight as I talk to others in the community about the work of McConnell. I want to give tangible knowledge of support and appreciation from the Wichita community. I think the Airmen know theoretically that the community is behind them, but sometimes it is nice to have a face-to-face contact and hear personally that the community supports them.”

This story is part of a series to highlight McConnell AFB honorary commanders and their impact on the base and the community.