Recent civic leader tour aims to keep local community informed, key to continued success

SCOTT AIR FORCE BASE, Ill. -- On July 21st, 28 local civic leaders traveled to Peterson Air Force Base, Colo., for the 2011 932nd Airlift Wing/375th Air Mobility Wing community outreach tour. The tour is designed to educate civic leaders about their United States Air Force and to enhance their understanding of Scott Air Force Base missions. The tour included a visit to the U.S. Air Force Academy, U.S. Northern Command/North American Aerospace Defense Command and the Air Force Reserve's 302nd Airlift Wing.

At the Academy, 12 college, university and school administrators, police and fire chiefs from six different communities and 10 area businessmen got an insider's view of how the Air Force develops its leaders. What they learned was the life of an Academy cadet is demanding. In addition to a course load of 18 to 21 credit hours each semester, cadets also engage in military training and a mandatory intramural or intercollegiate athletics program. It is a four-year, rigorous schedule of academics, training and fitness that molds these cadets into the officers they will become upon graduation. After an introductory briefing about the Academy, the civic leaders went on a tour of the picturesque Cadet Chapel, Mitchell Hall dining facility and the campus courtyard to show them the day-to-day life of a cadet.

The visit to the Academy ended with lunch at the Falcon Club where U.S. Air Force retired Col. Brian Binn, the president of the Colorado Spring Chamber of Commerce's Military Affairs Committee, spoke to the civic leaders about the similarities and differences between Scott AFB and the military installations in Colorado and about the impact of community relations.

Following the visit to the Academy, the tour participants went to NORAD/NORTHCOM at Peterson AFB to learn about its responsibilities and roles in global and homeland defense. The community outreach tour ended with a 302nd Airlift Wing mission overview and a C-130H3 Hercules static display.

Throughout the tour, there was one common theme - the professionalism and talent of our Air Force Airmen. From the flight to Peterson AFB to every stop along the way, the civic leaders observed what Col. Douglas Schwartz, the 932nd vice commander and I already knew; that our Airmen represent a unique standard of excellence. While the Academy was impressive, the NORAD/NORTHCOM mission interesting and the C-130H3 unique, what captured the civic leaders' attention was the remarkable Airmen that drive the mission day in and day out. It was their presence, their passion and their knowledge that stood out among all the cool stuff we got to see.

The civic leaders who participated in this community outreach tour were selected for specific reasons. One of Scott AFB's key priorities is education for our military children, for our military spouses and for our service members. This tour provided an opportunity to further the dialogue that has been diligently established between the base and area schools, colleges and universities through our school liaison officer, Dr. Cindy Doil, and through our Education Center. The visit to the Academy highlighted how we as an Air Force institution educate and grow our leaders.

For the police and fire chiefs, the tour provided an opportunity to learn about how the Department of Defense responds to natural disasters and other catastrophic events through the NORAD/NORTHCOM missions. They also got to see how the Air Force Reserve's only Modular Airborne Fire Fighting System unit conducts its mission of air dropping fire retardant to fight wildfires. Back here at Scott, it is important to establish rapport with local emergency responders. The 375th Civil Engineer Squadron's Fire Department and the 375th Security Forces Squadron already conduct joint military-civilian training, and should the need arise there is a already a joint military-civilian relationship for emergency response scenario's both on and off base.

Beyond building these foundations, the objective of these community outreach tours is to let these civic leaders gain a thorough understanding of the Air Force mission and to meet the Airmen behind them. It's this understanding of who we are, what we do and why we serve that translates into civic support of our military men and women and their families -- the greater the knowledge, the greater the relationship. From the civic leaders' many positive comments, the 2011 community outreach tour met and exceeded this objective.

Kudos to our hosts at the Academy, at NORAD/NORTHCOM and at the 302nd AW on a job well done! The tours and briefings were informative and engaging.

A very special thank you goes out to our total force partner, the 932nd AW, who put the tour together and provided the airlift. The pilots, aircrew and flight attendants did a fantastic job.

And to the civic leaders: thank you for taking time out of your busy schedules to spend a day with us. We are committed to building strong, positive relationships with the local community and seeking new opportunities to partner on issues of mutual interest and concern. This 2011 community outreach tour is a testament to our commitment. We look forward to working with you in the future and further strengthening the "Showcase" relationship between your organizations and Scott AFB.

(Editor's note: Colonel Hornitschek and civic leaders from the Scott AFB surrounding community were hosted by the 302nd Airlift Wing as part of the Air Force Community Relations Program. This program allows for civilians to gain a better understanding of Air Force missions and the Airmen who perform them.)