Civic leaders take flight, experience Dover AFB mission

  • Published
  • By Capt. Marnee A.C. Losurdo
  • 512th Airlift Wing Public Affairs
The engines whined to a high-pitched roar and with a sudden start, the C-17 Globemaster III jetted down the Dover Air Force Base runway at 150 miles per hour. As the aircraft launched into the sky, Wanda Lopez tightly held onto her seat.

Ms. Lopez is one of 25 honorary commanders who participated in a flight and tour of a C-5M Super Galaxy and several base operations facilities here April 13.

The Honorary Commanders Program pairs commanders from the 512th Airlift Wing, the 436th Airlift Wing and the Air Force Mortuary Affairs Operations with local civic leaders, who include government officials and business and medical professionals.

"The intent of this program is to educate community members with limited knowledge about the Air Force, Air Force Reserve and the base; and, in turn, we learn about our honorary commanders' organizations and professions," said Col. Randal L. Bright, 512th AW commander. "It's a commitment from both sides to devote the time into fostering a sense of community and understanding; and, it's an opportunity for us to form lasting friendships."

After participating in the C-17 orientation flight, 512th AW Honorary Vice Commander Ms. Lopez said the program gave civilians such as her a new appreciation for the amount of work and support provided by the men and women who work at Dover AFB.

"It's a very patriotic experience to get a glimpse into the military life and daily base activities," said Ms. Lopez, the executive director of the Governor's Advisory Council on Hispanic Affairs. "It truly encourages a great sense of pride for the First State."

Ms. Lopez and her fellow honorary commanders began their day at dawn at the 3rd Airlift Squadron. Colonel Bright, 512th AW commander, Col. Mark Camerer, 436th AW commander, and Col. David Hafer, 436th Operations Group commander, welcomed the group. The civilians received a briefing on the day's events and flight. They boarded a C-17 for a two-hour flight. Each honorary commander rotated through the flight deck to observe a KC-135 Stratotanker extend a flying boom, a rigid, telescoping tube, from the bottom of the aircraft. The tube connected to the top of the C-17, which then received fuel from the tanker flying 12-feet above.

Tech. Sgt. Arcenio Santiago, 3rd AS loadmaster, said he was proud to be taking the local community members up on the flight.

"It was enjoyable for me, because I get to see that the community members appreciate what I do," said Sergeant Santiago. "In turn, I get to show them a little bit about our mission."

After the flight, the honorary commanders went directly to a C-5M, equipped with new engines and avionics, so they could see the base's other airframe. Shortly after, the honorary commanders saw a glimpse of the behind-the-scenes flightline operations at the control tower and base operations.

By day's end, honorary commanders such as Peggy Bell, Delaware Criminal Justice Information System executive director, left with an appreciation of the base and its Airmen.

"The tour, flight and people of Dover Air Force Base are wonderful," said Mrs. Bell, 436th Mission Support Group honorary commander. "For all the years I have lived in Dover, I viewed the Air Force as a friend of the community; but, after (this event), that is no longer the condition. The Air Force is now part of my family. The young men and women are a credit to the uniforms they wear. The senior officers are down-to-earth and treat people as they should be treated. I am proud to be part of the Air Force family."

This event is part of a series of tours honorary commanders are invited to attend. In addition to the flight and base operations tour, they are slated to visit AFMAO, as well as the maintenance and mission support groups later this year.

"The flight and tour of base operations is one aspect of what active-duty and Reserve members do here daily," said the Colonel Bright, who commands a unit of 1,800 reservists who work in operations, maintenance, mission support and medical units. "We are a team that works together to deliver vital equipment and supplies to the warfighter. This program provides some of our community leaders an opportunity to see how the different organizations on the base work together to accomplish the airlift mission."

(Airman 1st Class Jacob Morgan, 436th AW Public Affairs, contributed to this article)