Central Arkansas named 2020 Great American Defense Community

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Dana J. Cable
  • 19th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

Central Arkansas, home to Little Rock Air Force Base, is one of five communities across the country named to the 2020 Class of Great American Defense Communities, a recognition program which is part of the Association of Defense Communities.

The program, now in its fifth year, was established to recognize the role that communities and regions with active installations play in supporting service members and military families.

"We are thrilled the LRAFB community has been recognized as a Great American Defense Community by the Association of Defense Communities,” said Annabelle Davis LRAFB Community Council executive secretary. “We have always tried to support the base above and beyond what is typically expected, and it is wonderful that those efforts have been rewarded on a national level. This unique relationship will continue to benefit LRAFB and our communities in Central Arkansas."

Communities are chosen for the award through a competitive nomination process.

The criteria evaluated included:

Community building and integration that provides an environment in which service members, their families, and veterans are welcomed and integrated into the community fabric.

Support and collaboration from a formal military-community support organization including advocates from local governments, non-profit organizations, and area businesses to form installation-community partnerships that enhance services to service members, their families and veterans.

Educational and employment opportunities that provide a wide range of job opportunities for service members and their families and ensures quality educational opportunities for military children, spouses, service members and veterans.

Family support that offers a range of support to service members and their families before, during and after deployments and as they transition from the military.

A few examples of how Central Arkansas and the LRAFB Community Council met many of the criteria include: 

  • Support of an air show and Air Force Ball through fundraising efforts totaling over $150,000 during the last two years.
  • The construction and opening of two new schools in Jacksonville, Arkansas, including Bobby Lester Elementary that replaced Arnold Drive Elementary on base.
  • The LRAFB Community Council being awarded a $330,000 grant for the development and implementation of the Cyber Security curriculum at Jacksonville High School – the first of its kind – which began this fall.
  • The successful passage of state legislation to benefit our military and retiree community, including the exemption of military retirees from paying state income tax, automatic licensure for military spouses and veterans coming in from other states, and exempting all Arkansas National Guard members from tuition for higher education opportunities.

Other communities recognized in the 2020 Class of Great American Defense Communities are Abilene, Texas for its support of Dyess Air Force Base; Greater Ogden, Utah, for its support of Hill Air Force Base; Junction City, Kansas, for its support of Fort Riley; and St. Clair County, Illinois, for its support of Scott Air Force Base.

“The Home of Herk Nation benefits immeasurably from the unparalleled support we receive,” said Col. John Schutte, 19th Airlift Wing commander.  “From caring for our Airmen, to resourcing improved educational opportunities for military families, to helping us celebrate airpower, to advocating for changes to state laws to allow Arkansas to lead the nation in military spouse licensure reciprocity—our community partners are absolutely vital to our ability to execute our combat airlift mission.  It is a pleasure to see them recognized as a 2020 Great American Defense Community. On behalf of Team Little Rock, thank you for your unwavering support!”