Col. Scott Brewer, 314th Airlift Wing commander, administers the oath for Honorary Commanders to the new 314th AW honorary commander, Jim Bedwell, Sherwood chief of police, during the Honorary Commanders Induction Ceremony July 31, 2012, at Little Rock Air Force Base, Ark. During the ceremony eight honorary commanders were inducted. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Rusty Frank)
Col. Brian Robinson, 19th Airlift Wing commander, administers the oath for Honorary Commanders to the new 19th AW honorary commanders, during the Honorary Commanders Induction Ceremony July 31, 2012, at Little Rock Air Force Base, Ark. More than 30 honorary commanders attended the ceremony where eight honorary commanders were inducted. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Rusty Frank)
Lt. Col. Veronica Anteola, 19th Force Support Squadron commander, pins on the Honorary Commander pin on the 19th FSS honorary commander Kelly Ivey, a Home Depot general store manager, during the Honorary Commander’s Induction Ceremony July 31, 2012, at Little Rock Air Force Base, Ark. Honorary commanders work as liaisons to the community to help spread the Air Force message. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Rusty Frank)
by Airman 1st Class Regina Agoha
19 th Airlift Wing Public Affairs
8/1/2012 - LITTLE ROCK AIR FORCE BASE, Ark., -- The military community and the civilian community are a lot alike. There's a chain of command where everyone knows their position and roles. In the military, at the top of the chain, there is a commander; in the civilian world, there is a mayor. But when coexisting, how are the two combined? Honorary commanders are there for that exact reason, and Tuesday, Little Rock Air Force Base inducted eight new honorary commanders during an Honorary Commanders' Induction Ceremony.
The ceremony welcomed the new honorary commanders, thanked the present ones and explained how crucial and important having honorary commanders are to link the civilian community with the military community.
The Honorary Commanders Program is a community outreach effort to continue building relationships between local civic leaders and Team Little Rock. This program gives community representatives awareness of the base's mission while offering military commanders and their unit members the opportunity to learn more about the communities they live in. It is also a community relations tool. Local civic and community leaders gain insight and experience about the Air Force and Little Rock Air Force Base operations and programs by working with Air Force commanders and personnel. Likewise, Air Force commanders and personnel benefit through increased association with the community and its key leaders.
The success of the program requires dual responsibility between military commanders and their honorary commanders. Their efforts to build beneficial partnerships through this program not only helps those who are currently working and living on the base and out in the communities but future generations who will call this area home.
During the ceremony, Col. Brian Robinson, 19th Airlift Wing commander, spoke to the current and new honorary commanders, as well as the unit commanders on base, encouraging them to continue to build on their relationships and thanking them for all they do.
"The Honorary Commanders Program is a program that exists to educate the community and the Air Force in terms of what it is we do for each other and the relationship that exists," he said. "It allows us to demonstrate, educate and exhibit the 'rock and roll' that goes on here at Little Rock. It demonstrates that plan. It's very important that we understand what role we play. It creates a public awareness and an understanding about what the military does - what the Air Force does, but specifically, what we bring to the table in the defense of our country. It creates an understanding on our part on what the community does for our Airmen and their families.
"Seventy percent of our Airmen and their families live in your community," Robinson said to the honorary commanders. "So we count on your support and the support of your community, your law enforcement and your fire department. We appreciate your support. I will say that the success in any relationship is a two way street. Each person's got to give 100 percent. It's not 100 percent all the time, but keep the lines of communication open. To the squadron commanders and the honorary commanders, invite each other to functions to create and enhance and enable those relationships to build that understanding. The key to the partnership is allowing this base and our Airmen and the community to thrive and succeed in what it is that we do. We appreciate you."
Lt. Col. Veronica Anteola, 19th Force Support Squadron commander, said she was very excited to be having an honorary commander for the first time.
"I think this is good because it will bridge the gap between the military and the community," she said. "We have a personal insider that will help us understand our civilian counterpart leaders. I'm looking forward to learning more about the civilian side. Having a leader in the community will be an eye opener for me. Sometimes we get stuck in our military roles, but there's so much more out there. I'm excited to have her on board as a part of the family. I have the best honorary commander."
Kelly Ivey, general store manager of Southwest Home Depot and honorary commander to Anteola, said she was honored to be chosen with such an elite group of people.
"It's an honor to be chosen looking around the room and seeing all the distinguished people here," she said. "I'm speechless to be able to partner with someone of her stature on the base and take the information I learn out into the community and introduce it to the people and things that I know, but also to be able to interact with her Airmen and impact their lives. It's going to be awesome."
Ivey said having honorary commanders really help the Airmen transition to new areas, and helping them and their families is one of her missions.
"Having us is important because like Robinson said, 70 percent of the Airmen are living here in the community," she said. "Most of the time they are not originally from here, so everything is foreign. They are temporary residents; they're only here for two to three years and then they move on, so it's up to us to make that transition easier."
Honorary commanders are volunteers. They complete an application that's reviewed and chosen by a board, which pairs that applicant with a commander who' views and missions matches closest with that applicant. Honorary commanders are inducted every three years.
For these next three years, both Anteola and Ivy said they are looking forward to developing and maintaining a great friendship and working together to increase the morale of the Airmen and their families.
Lt. Col. Mike Honma, 48th Airlift Squadron commander, has had his honorary commander, Ann Gilliam, Cabot city council member, for over a year now, and he said it's been incredibly awesome. Honma showered his honorary commander with praises about how pleased he is to have such a commander as her.
"I think it helps to have someone who understands and appreciates what our folks do day-in and day-out," said Honma. "Having a good working relationship with our community is so important. A lot of what we do, the community is the key to making our lives so much more enjoyable."
Gilliam said she enjoys what she does. She said she supports events that the 48th AS have, and then she goes back to the city and reports what the base has done and what her guys are doing.
"I think this is important because it gives the city that I live in insight on what goes on out here to some of the people who don't know," she said.
Honma said that honorary commanders are the people who are there to experience what the military does both on and off duty.
"They are the representatives that can truly say they understand and know how you sacrifice what you do," he said. "The little things that are done are appreciated. Its people like Ms. Gilliam that take that interest and help spread that information. This is more about being a community, than it is about coming to work and wearing a uniform. I have never had this kind of working relationship. There are communities that say we support our military, but I think here, in the areas around Little Rock Air Force Base, people live that. You can see it. You can see it every time when we get together, there's as many people like the honorary commanders participating as there are military. That's a huge symbol. I think that from the youngest airman to the senior officers, they see that and appreciate that. We should take pride in our honorary commanders and celebrate them every chance we get. "