FAFB honorary commanders tour at JBER

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Megan Delaine
  • 92nd Air Refueling Wing

Air Mobility Command civic leaders and Fairchild Air Force Base honorary commanders participated in a simulated deployment at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska, May 29-31, 2024.

Fairchild AFB leadership organized the trip to educate honorary commanders and civic leaders on the base’s global responsibilities and capabilities, as well as the mobility qualifications for deployed Airmen.

“Every two years, [Fairchild AFB is] allowed by the United States Air Force to take our civic leaders and our honorary commanders to a different base to familiarize them with their mission at the Air Force, AMC and base levels, and how the KC-135 Stratotanker impacts each,” said Charlie Durañona, 92nd Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs chief of community engagement.

The honorary commander program pairs local civic leaders with a group or squadron to gain deeper insight into the Air Force and Fairchild AFB’s mission to develop well-informed advocates in the Inland Northwest community. The honorary commanders advocate for, advise and collaborate with base leaders to provide connections between Fairchild AFB and the local community.

For this year’s honorary commander and civic leader tour, Fairchild AFB leadership constructed it in a way that replicated the process Airmen go through if they get deployed at a moment’s notice.

“The morning of the simulated deployment, they showed up super early to receive a mock briefing as to why it is that we’re getting deployed to Alaska,” said Durañona. “They were able to try on gas masks and things that honorary commanders and civic leaders don’t have the opportunity to do in the civilian world. For us in the military, that’s just another day, but for them it’s a whole new experience.”

Manny Hochheimer, 92nd Operations Group honorary commander, said going through the simulated deployment process gave him a new perspective on all the moving parts required to mobilize Airmen.  

“We were able to see that every detail from family, will and estate planning, health planning, legal planning, religious/spiritual preparation, child and pet care and mental preparation is available and delivered with the utmost confidence and respect,” he said. “It puts Airmen at ease and provides comfort knowing everyone and everything back home is in place.”

While at JBER, civic leaders and honorary commanders spent a night in military barracks to give them a more realistic deployment experience. They also toured the base and observed F-22 Raptor, C-17 Globemaster III, HH-60 Pave Hawk and the HC-130J Combat King II static displays. Each aircraft plays a vital role in AMC’s mission to project, connect, maneuver and sustain the Joint Force to achieve national objectives.

“Going on the tour impacted my work back home and at FAFB by showing me firsthand how interconnected everything is between our multiple strategic bases, joint base operations, strategic alignment and vital forces,” stated Hochheimer.

By attending the tour and immersing themselves in Fairchild AFB’s aerial refueling mission at different bases, the civic leaders and honorary commanders gained first-hand exposure to the obstacles Airmen face while supporting global mobility operations.  

“Not only is it super fun and interactive, but it’s also about showing them the military perspective and that’s what the honorary commander program is all about,” said Durañona. “With this tour they can see it, feel it and experience it. This enables them to better advocate for us, because that’s what they do as honorary commanders.”