Learning from a community

June 22, 2018

On first glance, one might think that the Military Affairs Committee (MAC) is in tight competition with all other cities with military installations.

After all, we just recently won the battle to be one of the three bases for the new B-21 bombers. And we came out on top, winning the first Barksdale Trophy for being the city with the strongest support of its base among all of them in the Global Strike Command.

Winning is good.

But, we are great friends with our counterparts around the nation, like at Ellsworth, Barksdale, Whiteman, Scott, and sister Air Force installations and the other Armed Services. In fact, the nearby city or region for most military installations is a member of the Association of Defense Communities (ADC).

Four members of the Abilene Chamber of Commerce Military Affairs Committee spent three days last week at ADC’s National Summit in the Nation’s Capital. They attended a variety of forums and workshops dealing with the issues MAC-like groups and the military face each day.  There were sessions on community partnering, cyber and space, the military family and how to serve them, energy for the bases, and many others.

Many had an underlying theme: How to work with and through the Pentagon, the major commands and your installation to get things done. No surprise, that can be a challenge.

Among the top keynote speakers were:

Former Abilenian John (Jay) Gibson, Chief Management Officer for the Department of Defense. That’s the third most powerful job in the Pentagon. During his address he said about Abilene and the MAC, “This is a community with a tremendous willingness to its base and its Airmen. (When an issue arises) “it is willing to do something about it.”

Secretary of the Air Force Dr. Heather Wilson spoke about the need for a great quality of life for Airmen and their families. That includes high-quality public schools for their children and the ability for spouses who have certification or license in a professional field from previous state of residence to be able to work in whatever state they are now living. She said quality of schools and reciprocity of licensure will be added to things that will be considered in future basing decisions.

The Abilene MAC delegation had a private meeting with John Henderson, the Air Force’s Assistant Secretary for Energy, Installations and Environment, and his staff to discuss more about the timeline and process for the B-21 and other Dyess issues.

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