Thursday, October 29, 2009

Louisiana Civic Leaders tour Eglin AFB

by Tech. Sgt. Jeff Walston
917th Wing Public Affairs Office

10/28/2009 - Barksdale AFB, La. -- More than 25 influential civic leaders from the Shreveport/Bossier City area of Louisiana gained first-hand knowledge of operations of the Air Force during a two-day "Civic Leader Tour" flight from Barksdale Air Force Base, La., to Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., on October 21-22, 2009.

Escorted by the 917th Wing Commander Colonel Edmund Walker, the civic leaders flew onboard a KC-135 Stratotanker furnished by the 931st Air Refueling Group, McConnell Air Force Base, Kan., from Barksdale to Eglin, where they were hosted by Colonel Bruce McClintock, commander of the 96th Air Base Wing, Air Armament Center and Air Force Material Command.

The group was comprised of a wide range of civic leaders from the area including business owners, local elected officials, educators, corporate leaders and community organizers.

One of the purposes of civic leader tours such as this one to Eglin, is to create a better understanding in the civilian sector of how Barksdale Airmen and the Air Force as a whole contributes in the national security role to ensure the freedoms we experience today.

During the flight to Eglin, the civic leaders were able to witness A-10 Thunderbolt jets flying up close and personal to the KC-135 for aerial refueling.

Two A-10 Thunderbolts piloted by Lt. Col. Pete Olson, a Regular Air Force instructor pilot working with the 47th Fighter Squadron and Capt. Jason Cobb, instructor pilot, 47th FS, gave the civic leaders an opportunity to see the expertise and professionalism of the 47th FS pilots and crew of the KC-135.

"I liked seeing the broad scope of the Air Force Reserve mission and how all the teams work together," said Doug Rogers. "It's interesting to me to find out how much of the war effort is accomplished by the Reserves."

Once the civic leaders arrived at Eglin, AFB, they spent the next two days touring base facilities and receiving briefings on the mission support capabilities of the 96th ABW.

The first day at Eglin involved a visit to the United States Air Force Armament Museum, where they received a briefing from Master Sgt. Brian Jones, public affairs superintendent at Eglin AFB. After lunch at the Officers Club, the civic leaders enjoyed a Military Working Dog demonstration, a static display and briefing on the MC-130E Combat Talon I at Duke Field and a briefing by Colonel Andy Comtois, vice commander, 919th Special Operations Wing.

After a restful night in a hotel the civic leaders returned to Eglin where they toured the Air Force Research Laboratory Taconi Room and received a briefing by Brian Mitchell on past, present and future war technology produced at Eglin.

One of the highlights of the second day for the civic leaders was the visit to the McKinley Climatic Laboratory, the world's largest environmental testing chamber.

Lynn Shreve, archeological cultural resource manager, briefed the civic leaders at the Artifact Curation Facility about the preservation and documentation of the historical aspects of the 724 square miles Eglin AFB encompasses.

For lunch on the second day at Eglin, civic leaders enjoyed the fine cuisine of the Enlisted Club.

After lunch, Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force (Ret) Jim Binnicker hosted the Louisiana visitors at the Hawthorn House for a briefing about the Air Force Enlisted Village. Director of the Hawthorn House Jennifer Carron and Admissions Coordinator Angela Guimond conducted tours for the civic leaders of the Hawthorn House and its amenities. The primary mission of the Air Force Enlisted Village - a non-profit organization - is to provide the surviving spouses of Air Force retired enlisted members with housing facilities and related services.

A very peaceful flight back to Louisiana wrapped the two-day event. Most slept through the return trip, unlike the day before. Deemed a success from the words of praise, smiles and handshakes as all headed home, it would seem that another opportunity for leaders in our community to better understand the Air Force and the Air Force Reserve had been accomplished.


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