Honorary Commanders Program: Community leaders learn base, mission, to make life outside gates better

  • Published
  • By Amy Oliver
  • 1st SOW Public Affairs
What do a firefighter, a hospital official, a banker and Methodist pastor have in common?

These four plus a college official, a radio official and a chamber of commerce president round out the team that makes up the 2006-2007 1st Special Operations Wing Honorary Commanders Program.

In its third year, the program is designed to build and maintain solid, mutually beneficial relationships between the local communities and Hurlburt Field.

To date, the program has produced 26 Hurlburt Field ambassadors in the community.

An example of a benefit derived from the program are the Air Force Reserve recruiting public service announcements that are currently running on the local Cumulus Broadcasting radio stations, a result of 99 Rock's disc jockey "Woofy"s participation in the program last year.

"Through my interaction with the base as the honorary command chief, I've been able to put Hurlburt Airmen on the air to talk about the good things they're doing and promote events happening on the base," said Woofy, who's also the program director for the radio station. "It boosts morale for the Airmen, and provides a more fluid transfer of information between the base and the local community."

The program allows select local civic leaders frequent opportunities to visit Hurlburt Field and learn about the mission, participate in base functions and express their views on issues of mutual concern. 

"By the end of their year, they will have a keen knowledge about the risks taken every day by 1st SOW Airmen in the name of freedom," said Col Norman Brozenick, Jr., 1st SOW commander. "We hope they will use this knowledge to help us foster understanding and support within the local community."

The honorary commanders tour each of the four groups in the wing during their year-long tenure. Additionally, their Hurlburt Field commander counterparts are encouraged to immerse their respective honorary commanders into as much of their field as possible.

Last year, the program implemented flights for the honorary commanders.

"Anyone who ever tells you that a special ops helo ride is not as exciting as a ride in an F-15 Eagle is full of crap!" said Tony Hughes, Beach Community Bank and 2005-2006 honorary 1st SOW commander. "I had an awesome time. I am going to savor my MH-53 ride and the wild and crazy things I saw those guys do."

The 1st SOW Public Affairs Office will begin receiving nominations for next year's honorary commander in May. Anyone can nominate someone for the program, but the official call for nominations will be sent to 1st SOW commanders, current and former honorary commanders and community organizations, such as the chambers of commerce.

In order for maximum benefit, the 1st SOW prefers the nominees meet certain criteria:

· Nominees should represent the various local communities and may be current or potential leaders in their respective communities.
· Elected officials cannot participate during an election year.
· Nominees should have a very limited military or government contractor background and we request that military retirees are not submitted as potential candidates.
· Nominees should not be currently participating in one of the other Honorary Commanders Programs in the area.

Once the nominations are received, the wing commander will select the newest members of the program. The wing commander, the group commanders, and the wing command chief are each assigned an honorary commander. This year, the wing chaplain was also assigned an honorary chaplain.

The current group of honorary commanders still has six more months left in their roles, including a flight on a 1st SOW aircraft.

"I have thoroughly enjoyed my time as an honorary commander so far," said Randy Brown, fire chief for the Ocean City-Wright Fire Department, and 1st Special Operations Mission Support Group honorary commander. "I have learned more about the Air Force than what I knew when I was enlisted myself in the 1970s. The way the new Air Force is taking care of its people makes me want to re-enlist again."