By Doug Williamson
Director of Government Affairs
That’s not the best way to start a conversation, an invitation or even a sales pitch.
Since you are reading this column in the Monday Morning Memo, you’re likely a member of the Abilene Chamber of Commerce, and slightly more than 300 of you are also members of the MAC…MAC, as in Military Affairs Committee.
My question is, why aren’t all of you MAC members?
Historian and writer extraordinaire Jay Moore gave us a great look at the almost-70-year history of the MAC a couple of weeks ago on these pages. World War II had ended, the Korean War was heading toward its conclusion. The airbase out between Abilene and Tye had closed. Local civic leaders recognized the importance to national security and the local economy of having an active military installation.
Uncle Sam had sold the 1,500-acre property to the City of Abilene for $1. Local leaders did fund-raising and pretty easily put together more than $800,000, purchased 3,500 more acres and gave it all to the government. If you converted that $800,000 to today’s dollars, they would have raised $8.4 million.
Let’s figure out why you should be a MAC member?
What does Dyess Air Force Base mean to you and me?
Economically, it infuses more than $500 million a year into the Big Country economy, and of that, $1.2 million a day, in payroll alone. If I reach deep into the “really impress them” bag, I could tell you that the State Comptroller says all that cash adds $3.7 billion to the Texas economy.
But, Dyess isn’t just numbers like, 5,000 military and civilian personnel, 28 B-1B bombers and 33 C-130J transports. Those people affiliated with the base also are soccer coaches for your kids, church choir members, the family in front of you at Market Street and that next door neighbor who repaired your dog house during the pandemic.
Where would Abilene be if local leaders hadn’t taken charge back in the 50s? Where will Abilene be 50 years from now if we don’t continue to have a strong leadership presence?
In steps the Military Affairs Committee.
Name the top two things you know about the MAC. I bet your answer will be the World’s Largest Barbecue and the quarterly MAC luncheons.
Your answer is correct and incomplete.
A couple of hundred MAC volunteers will spend many hours over several months preparing and executing the BBQ that will feed 3,000-4,000 folks with great food and huge “Thank Yous.”
The MAC luncheons share important information about the operations and plans at the base. Also, the monthly MAC newsletter spreads the word, too.
But, what did you not mention?
- 50 MAC members are honorary commanders, acting as liaisons between Abilene and the units, groups, squadrons and wings at Dyess.
- A group of 20-or-so Abilenians make a trip to D.C. to advocate for the base annually. In addition, members of the MAC Executive Committee make 5-7 additional trips working on issues that directly affect Dyess’ future, from the B-21 to pay rates for the Reservists on the base.
- Base leadership has several events for the members of the MAC during the course of the year.
- Another benefit of MAC membership is credentials for entry to the base, the golf course and other facilities.
- To me, the final benefit in being a MAC member is that it is JUST THE RIGHT THING TO DO.
Col. Joe Kramer likes to refer to the installation as a “lift and strike base.” (The C-130s doing airlift work, and the B-1s striking the enemy.) We like to say that we are all one team. Our MAC’s job is to LIFT personnel and families at Dyess and STRIKE as advocates of the base, advocating here, in Austin and in Washington.
Help us support Dyess Air Force Base. Join the Chamber’s Military Affairs Committee. Annual dues are $85 for Chamber members. Email firstname.lastname@example.org and join us in our work.