Friday, June 18, 2010

EDITORIAL>>The eagle has landed

The conference center at Little Rock Air Force Base was filled with community leaders on Tuesday, when Gov. Mike Beebe presented the prestigious Abilene Trophy to Jacksonville and its neighbors for being Air Mobility Command’s most supportive community.

Representatives from the Abilene, Texas, Chamber of Commerce brought the sculpted eagle to the conference center after selecting our area for the award and receiving final approval from AMC, which is an honor indeed.

Members of the Little Rock Air Force Base Community Council gave a standing ovation when the governor handed the trophy to Col. Gregory S. Otey, the wing commander, and to area mayors, who beamed with pride, and rightly so: There’s not another military community in the world that supports its base with more fervor than this area.

Just ask the folks at Air Mobility Command or Air Education and Training Command, which make up the main components at the base. The Air Force has watched the base grow going back 55 years, when the community raised $1.2 million and donated 6,600 acres that made the base possible, and right up to today, with Jacksonville paying $5 million toward a new joint-education center in front of the air base.

There’s so much more: Airpower Arkansas, a subset of the community council, raised funds for the base’s 2010 air show, collecting more than $50,000 from local businesses and individuals.

Community members also donated more than $22,000 in support of the LRAFB rodeo teams and accompanied the teams to the air competition.

In return, the base generates about $500 million a year in goods and services in local communities. It’s a pretty decent trade-off.

The Abilene Trophy is well deserved and much appreciated. The only question is: What took so long for the eagle to finally land here?