Omaha Metro civic leaders visit Davis-Monthan

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Rachelle Blake
  • 55th Wing Public Affairs

The 55th Wing hosted seventeen civic leaders from Nebraska and Iowa on the Sun Never Sets Civic Leader Tour to Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Arizona, May 8-9, 2018.

The civic leader tour provided the 55th Wing an opportunity to further develop their community of supporters within the Omaha metropolitan area as well as reach out to others who have little to no association with Offutt Air Force Base or military.

“I greatly enjoyed learning about how all the roles, squadrons, missions and Airmen work together - and how specific the purpose and execution of each aircraft, mission and group is,” said Allison Schorr, senior manager of marketing and communications for the Institute for Career Advancement Needs and a member of the Greater Omaha Chamber Young Professionals Council.

The civic leaders traveled to Davis-Monthan AFB to get an up close and personal look at the 55th Electronic Combat Group, a geographically separated unit of the 55th Wing, as well as learn about the mission of the base’s host unit, the 355th Fighter Wing, and tour the 309th Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group’s aircraft storage facility, better known as the boneyard.

How they all come together was fascinating - along with all the terminology and military speak,” said Schorr. “The life, work and operations of the military is something I've always wondered about - a level of mystique if you will - and the chance to have been welcomed in to see it in action first hand was truly amazing.”

Transportation to-and-from Davis Monthan was provided by the Nebraska Air National Guard’s 155th Air Refueling Wing in a KC-135 Stratotanker. The pilot, U. S. Air Force Col. John Williams, 155th Operations Group commander, is the brother of Cathy Williams, Offutt Advisory Council member, who was an attendee of the civic leader tour.

“It was the first time I have ever been in an aircraft he has flown or seen him in action,” said Williams. “I am very proud of my brother. I have three brothers who are military related and I am very proud of all of them. It was awesome that he was the pilot on the tour.”

On the way to Davis-Monthan the Stratotanker re-fueled an EC-130H Compass Call over the mountains of Arizona.

“I am kind of a nerd for aircraft, so for me it’s kind of something I have always dreamed about doing,” said Matt John, Mayor of Bennington, Nebraska. “The experience of seeing the EC-130 come up behind the airplane, and the fact that I was actually laying their next to the boom operator while he did his job, was an invaluable experience - pretty amazing.”

After arriving at Davis-Monthan, the civic leaders met with their counterparts from the Tucson area. This provided an opportunity for both groups to share ideas and stories about how they support military members and their families who are stationed at their bases.

“Having served at both Davis-Monthan and now Offutt, I can tell you both of those communities really know how to make their military members feel welcomed and supported,” said U.S. Air Force Col. Michael Manion, 55th WG commander. “I’ve truly been blessed to have lived in both areas, and they are great examples of how communities can really get behind their military members.”

To kick-off day two, the civic leaders received a 55th WG and 55th ECG mission brief.

“I am overall so impressed with the quality of leadership and the deep care that is expressed for all of the Airmen and pilots and staff of the 55th WG,” said John. “It is pretty inspiring to see at the level of excellence and commitment in your operation.”

Next, the group had the opportunity to operate an EC-130H simulator and explored a static EC-130H.

Over lunch, the group received a 355th FW mission brief and met with U.S. Air Force Col. Chad Balettie, 355th FW vice commander, who spoke on the wide array of units assigned to Davis-Monthan.

Visiting Davis-Monthan was very impressive,” said Lindsey Spehn, a senior consultant with Gallup and a member of the Greater Omaha Chamber Young Professionals Council. “Prior to the trip I wasn’t aware of the connection that existed between D-M and Offutt, and now I feel I have a clearer picture of how everything fits together. Everyone at D-M was very friendly, knowledgeable and patient with our many questions.”

Finally, the group was given a driving tour of the boneyard, which houses around 4,400 aircraft and 13 aerospace vehicles from the Air Force, Navy-Marine Corps, Army, Coast Guard, and several federal agencies including NASA.

“To be shown the aircraft and briefed on the experiences and status of both Offutt and D-M in such a personal an experiential way was incredible,” said Schorr. “Each person that showed us a window into their world, expressed pride, passion and purpose. As someone who drove onto Offutt Air Force Base for the first time to participate in this tour - I came away hoping to continue my engagement and interest in Offutt and the incredible work the service men and women of the Air Force. As a citizen of Greater Omaha, we are lucky to have Offutt in our backyard and I was truly grateful, especially as a young professional, to have this experience.”

“This civic leader tour was a once-in-a-lifetime experience for me,” said Spehn. “I walked away feeling so appreciative of the sacrifices our armed forces make for our country daily, as well as much more knowledgeable about the Air Force and the 55th WG.”