Wednesday, June 16, 2010

TOP STORY >> Community named best for support

IN SHORT: Prestigious Abilene Trophy presented to air base boosters.

By John Hofheimer
Leader senior staff writer

Gov. Mike Beebe was on hand Tuesday at the Little Rock Air Force Base Community Council meeting when members of the Abilene (Texas) Chamber of Commerce presented the prestigious Abilene Trophy to Jacksonville and its neighbors for being the Air Mobility Command’s most supportive community.

The award, a sculpted eagle, was presented to Col. Greg Otey and a flock of local mayors and representatives.

Mayors or their representatives were on hand from Ward, Austin, Cabot, Jacksonville, Sherwood, North Little Rock and Maumelle.

The Abilene Trophy is presented annually to a civilian community for outstanding support to a nearby AMC base and the winner is determined by a selection group of the Abilene Chamber of Commerce Military Affairs Committee with final approval by AMC.
The governor didn’t speak and left immediately after the presentation, but he had promised to make himself available for it whenever it occurred and he made good on that promise.

Otey credited not only the long history of good works done by the local community, centered at Jacksonville, but stretching from Cabot to Maumelle, but also Cindi Maddox, who put 4.25 inches worth of documentation into the three-inch application notebook.

Otey noted that community support ran all the way back to the base’s beginning, when local leaders raised $1.2 million to buy 6,600 acres to give the Air Force create 1955.
He said that three generations of some families—he named the Wilsons and the Grays—had been supportive of the base.

In an earlier letter to community council members, Otey said that among the community contributions to the base were:

• Jacksonville’s support of the new Joint Education Center. The residents of Jacksonville taxed themselves and raised $5 million toward the new center, currently under construction outside the gate but on the base.

• The mayor of Jacksonville briefs Little Rock AFB’s New-comers Orientation each week, so every new airman knows the local mayor.

• Airpower Arkansas, a subset of the Community Council consisting of local community members, raised funds for the base’s 2010 Air show, collecting over $50,000 from local businesses and individuals.

• Community members donated over $22,000 in support of the Little Rock AFB Rodeo teams. In addition to the outstanding financial support, many attended the pre-departure breakfast and the post-RODEO celebrations and a few community members even accompanied the Little Rock AFB Rodeo teams to the competition.

• Civic leaders sponsored base events including the Air Force Ball, the Annual Awards Ceremony, and the Black Knight Heritage Dinner enabling deep discounts for Airmen ticket prices. These leaders also made time on Thanksgiving and Christmas to serve meals to Airmen at the base dining facility.

• Community members sponsor the base’s quarterly deployed families dinner, resulting in an outstanding (and free) event for spouses and children of deployed members.

• Local concert and sporting event venues showed their support by not just offering military discounts, but scheduling one or two concerts or sporting events each month that are offered to military members at drastically reduced prices (or even free).
In turn, the base generates about $500 million in goods and services from the local communities.

Kristina Jones, a representative of the Abilene Chamber of Commerce, said the judges were very impressed by the Joint Education Center, which will house six different educational facilities to offer opportunities to young men and women on the base and also in the community.

The award is a sculpture of an Eagle, with its wingtip touching the representation of a rock.

It represents partnership between the Air Force and the community, she said, with the outstretched wings of the eagle representing the Air Force and all it does to extend freedoms across the world, and the base is a rock because the community is the foundation by which the eagle much be supported to take off into the air.

Otey led attendees in singing Happy Birthday to Jacksonville resident Gen. Dub Myers, calling him a long-time friend of the base.

Formally known as the Air Mobility Command Community Support Award, the Abilene Trophy has been awarded since its establishment in 1998. The award’s sponsor is the Abilene, Texas Chamber of Commerce. Abilene is home to Dyess Air Force Base, which has an AMC contingent, the 317th Airlift Group; however, the main host, the 7th Bomb Wing, is under the Air Combat Command, and thus Dyess would not be eligible for an award sponsored by its host city.

Charleston (Charleston Air Force Base) has won the award three times and Grand Forks (Grand Forks Air Force Base), Dover, (Dover Air Force Base) Spokane (Fairchild Air Force Base) and Tampa (McDill Air Force Base) have each won twice.