LRAFB civic leaders learn from Airmen during recent visit to McConnell AFB

  • Published
  • By Tammy L. Reed
  • 19th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

“What does downrange mean?”


This question was a subtle reminder there are some civilians with limited military experience who may not understand the jargon used daily in that world.


Twenty civilians from communities surrounding Little Rock Air Force Base, Arkansas, posed many questions while attending a civic leader tour July 26-27, 2018, hosted by Little Rock AFB and McConnell AFB, Kansas.


This tour exposed civic leaders to two military installations, and their mission sets and a multitude of Airmen’s jobs to help them better understand the Air Force, Air Mobility Command, and their communities.


The participants first gathered at Little Rock AFB early that Thursday morning to meet with uniformed leadership from across the base for breakfast and briefings highlighting Team Little Rock’s combat airlift missions.


Col. Gerald Donohue, 19th Airlift Wing commander, greeted the men and women representing Little Rock’s Community Council and a wide variety of businesses and agencies from towns around Little Rock AFB.


“Community support is very important to us,” Donohue said. “Our Civic Leader Tour program is a great tool we have available to show our mission to you, with the hope that you become strong supporters of Little Rock AFB and AMC and share that mission as well.”


After viewing the installation mission video, hearing briefings from the 314th Airlift Wing, 189th Airlift Wing and 913th Airlift Group, the civic leaders and base leadership boarded a C-130J waiting for them on the runway and buckled into the red-webbed seats.


After flying to McConnell AFB, they invested a day and a half in learning first-hand about Team McConnell’s people, facilities and mission, focusing on KC-135 aerial refueling, the development of the KC-46 Pegasus program, and how those aircraft impact Rapid Global Mobility.  


The civic leaders gained more insight into the active-duty and Air National Guard sides of the base,  toured a KC-135 and a brand-new, multi-million dollar high-tech hangar, and met with McConnell’s community support group -- Friends of McConnell -- for dinner.


Throughout the tour, the civic leaders spoke with Airmen about their facilities and their jobs, getting a better feel for their missions and how they fit within AMC. 


Gina Radke, chief executive officer of Galley Support Innovations in Sherwood, Arkansas, who is new to the military, enjoyed meeting the Airmen while learning about the refueling mission at McConnell.


“I had heard about refueling in the sky, but I had no idea how it worked,” Radke said. “How precise it had to be. How stressful that must be for the pilots to hold two multi-million dollar aircraft 13 feet apart and try to refuel them with thousands of pounds of fuel a second.


“And I think the big thing about that is it keeps our Airmen safe because they aren’t having to land in a warzone. They are refueling in the sky. That part of Air Mobility Command keeps our most valuable assets, our Airmen, safe.”


Another valuable thing the civic leaders learned was about the Airmen’s different career fields.


“I think the biggest thing I learned Air Force-wide is the fact that you have to have every position,” Radke added. “It all works toward the mission. Whether you are on the dining staff, whether you are a photojournalist, or whether you are a boom operator, or mechanic or pilot, they all have to work together.”


Jim Cargill, president and CEO of Arvest Bank Central Arkansas, was inspired by McConnell’s relationship with their community.


“It was an eye-opening experience,” Cargill said. “It’s really a world I wasn’t acquainted with, and an impact that I wasn’t fully appreciative of until I made this trip. And at dinner with the McConnell community leaders, I got to see how other communities like Wichita really appreciate and value McConnell as part of their community and how it benefits them.”