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Honorary commanders visit Tyndall Air Force Base

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Kendra A. Ransum
  • 94th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

Dobbins Air Reserve Base civic leaders visited Tyndall Air Force Base, Florida, Aug. 9-10 as part of the honorary commanders program, designed to expose community leaders to the Air Force mission.

The visit to Tyndall AFB showcased additional missions and other aspects of the Air Force and Air Force Reserve that members cannot experience at Dobbins ARB, and expanded upon the civic leaders’ understanding of the various roles Airmen play in the defense of the nation.

The civic leaders hit the ground running immediately upon arrival, touring an F-35A Lightning II aircraft that had arrived only days before. Guided by Lt. Col. Michael Powell, the commander of the 95th Fighter Squadron, the group learned how Tyndall AFB has officially started the transition from an air dominance training mission to a fully combat capable F-35A Lightning II fighter wing.

“The more we have folks aware of what we're doing, the more they're going to want to support what we're doing,” said Powell. “We believe in this advancement, and we want to share that with [others] so they can enjoy it and become believers in the mission that we're executing.”

The participants also toured the 337th Air Control Squadron’s Air Battle Manager schoolhouse, which trains all of America’s active duty, Reserve and Air National Guard ABMs. There, the civic leaders were immersed in the schoolhouse’s task to train students in command-and-control mission execution in a variety of weapons systems in support of air expeditionary forces worldwide and how those Airmen will play a critical role in supporting the Air Force’s mission to fly, fight, and win.

The group then moved on the Air Force Civil Engineer Center’s Natural Disaster Recovery Division, which is responsible for guiding installations through the process of recovering from a natural disaster. In 2018, Tyndall AFB sustained a direct hit from Hurricane Michael and since then, construction has been underway to rebuild the base and shape it into the Department of Defense’s first 21st Century “Installation of the Future.” The NDR visit provided leaders the opportunity to see firsthand some of the reconstruction taking place on the installation as well as view models and learn about what projects are planned for the coming years.

Looking ahead, Tyndall will continue to grow as the rebuild hits full speed. Construction efforts continue to ramp up, with an expected peak in 2024, and will soon see the first of its new buildings completed and ready for use.

“This year, having seen Tyndall, a base that was pushed to the brink of extinction and then brought back through a logical planning and investment, it's really an eye-opener to show what's possible when we all put our strengths and ideas behind a worthwhile challenge,” said Col. Richard Konopczynski, the 94th Operations Group commander at Dobbins ARB.

The final destination during the visit was the 601st Air Operations Center and Air Force Rescue Coordination Center. There, Airmen showcased how the organizations plan, direct, and assess air and space operations, provide aerospace warning and control, and direct Air Force air and space capabilities in support of homeland security and civil support missions.

The Air Force Honorary Commanders program seeks to educate key community leaders about the Air Force’s various missions and helps foster a supportive relationship with and increase military involvement in civic endeavors and organizations within communities local to Air Force units. The Dobbins program is unique because it is a joint effort involving all military tenant units on the installation. The program here allows civic leaders to partner with commanders and senior leaders from the Air Force Reserve, Army Reserve, Navy Reserve, Marine Corps Reserve, and Army and Air National Guard. The yearlong program educates participants on things like the military’s economic impact and the unit’s role in national defense. The collaboration fosters a symbiotic relationship between the military and the local community and allows participants to build partnerships to help communities work together toward a shared future vision.

“It's really important to build those bridges and those connections between us and our local community,” said Konopczynski. “If we can't have positive interactions with the local community and the leaders in that community, then none of our mission goals are actually possible.”

The civic leader tour is just one of a number of opportunities program participants have to learn about Air Force and Air Force Reserve missions.

“We’re incredibly appreciative and want to thank everyone that's a part of this program,” said Terri Bunten-Guthrie, a civilian Honorary Commander participant. “I was very impressed – the tour they put together, the level of information they provided to us and getting to see the F-35A was perfect! These memories are something you can't replace.”