Friday, June 23, 2017

TOP STORY >> LRAFB group tops in U.S.

The Little Rock Air Force Base Community Council has received the 2017 Member of the Year Award from the Association of Defense Communities for its support of Little Rock Air Force Base for more than 60 years.

The council includes local leaders who, with residents and businesses in Jacksonville, Little Rock, Cabot, Sherwood and other communities surrounding the base, form “Team Little Rock,” which hosts the base and supports its mission and personnel.

Annabelle Davis and Barbara Merrick of the Little Rock Air Force Base Community Council, which helped bring the air base to Jacksonville in 1955, accepted the award in Washington this week.

Merrick, the council’s president, said Friday, “I’m so grateful that Entergy allows me the time to work in support of the base, and not just my company, business and industry leaders all around central Arkansas go the extra mile to care for the airmen here.”

“I think ADC also recognize how well the communities in the area join together to support our base,” Merrick continued. “It’s truly a team effort and a labor of love for all of us.”

Davis, who is the group’s executive secretary, said Friday, “We were thrilled at being selected as the 2017 ADC member of the year. This just confirms that all the community council and our members do to support LRAFB has been noticed and recognized on a national level.”

The Association of Defense Communities praised the council for its support of the base and its outreach program.

“In addition to the great work the Little Rock Air Force Base Community Council does locally, it is also an outstanding example of leadership in our organization,” said ADC president Michael Cooper. “The council members’ work shows their understanding of how to use all resources available to make things better in their community, which perfectly illustrates the ADC mission.”

ADC is the nation’s leading association representing communities and states with a significant military presence and their partner organizations. The group promotes defense infrastructure, community-military partnerships, defense real estate, mission growth, base redevelopment and support for military families and veterans.

Jacksonville and Arkansas have adopted ordinances and regulations that prevent civilian encroachment that would impede aircraft operation, and many military-civilian partnerships have been formed to provide mutual services that improve quality of life on both sides of the fence, while reducing military expenses.

These partnerships include cooperation in ensuring the availability on base of Central Arkansas library services and materials, the development and use of recreational facilities, collaboration on programs involving traffic signals and recycling, and plans to partner on bulk materials ordering and sharing on-base youth resources with local families.

Throughout the year, the Jacksonville Fire Department and Emergency Services team participates with their military counterparts during exercises and to respond to emergencies and disasters.

“The LRAFB Community Council, made up of local leaders, has been a champion of the base’s mission, directing the efforts of both the military and civilian communities to further integrate the two through mutual support,” wrote Sen. John Boozman (R-Ark.) and Second District Rep. French Hill (R-Ark.) in a letter saluting the council’s achievements.

“During this time of economic uncertainty, when our defense and Air Force are facing extensive budget cuts that could affect LRAFB, the community council has been indispensable in working with our offices to provide critical information to the LRAFB community, airmen and their families,” they wrote.

In 1953, Pulaski County formed a committee that raised $1.2 million to buy 6,000 acres of land in north Pulaski County, which it donated to the Air Force for the base.

Since then, the council has launched many initiatives to ensure that the Air Mobility Command’s 19th Airlift Wing and the 314th Airlift Wing, a component of the Air Education and Training Command, can carry out their operations and that those who work at the base feel welcome and cared for by the community.

A council subcommittee has raised more than $70,000 in community sponsor donations to support the 60th anniversary gala, which drew more than 800 military and civilian attendees, including 140 airmen who participated free of charge.

The Jacksonville Museum of Military History hosts many memorials, ceremonies and other events to honor airmen and veterans.

In September 2016, LRAFB and Team Little Rock hosted its first-ever military expo, which included all branches of service in the state, provided displays, demonstrations and performances, raising more than $10,000 in cash and contributions.

In recognition of the council’s strong and varied support of the base, Gov. Asa Hutchinson appointed immediate past council president Brad Hegeman to chair the Governor’s Military Affairs Committee, which was created in 2015 to address the assets, economic impact, benefits and needs of military installations and military-related businesses in Arkansas.