The City of Columbus was selected as the inaugural winner of the Air Education and Training Command Award in a ceremony held in San Antonio, Texas last week. The award is given to the community that best exemplifies steadfast support to AETC Airmen and their families. Members of the Columbus Air Force Base and local political leaders stood beside representatives of the LINK’s Columbus Military Affairs committee as they accepted the Altus trophy at the kick-off to the 2011 Air Education and Training Command Symposium.
Columbus Mayor Robert Smith and Lowndes County Supervisor Harry Sanders took the trip to San Antonio to compete for the award. Both leaders expressed gratitude to the Columbus citizens for their selflessness in support of the airmen and their families, noting how many people have opened their homes to host base events.
Some of the programs the City of Columbus were best known for in supporting Columbus AFB were: the Pilot Partner program, the Pilot for a Day program, providing financial and manpower resources for the Wings over Columbus Air Show and Open House, T-37 static display maintenance, administrative foundation for the Base Community Council, and “adoptions” of military family members for the holidays.
“It solidifies the validity that Columbus is one of the best Air Force cities in the country…It shows that through 70 years, that we’ve created some really strong bonds between the city and the base. Columbus Air Force Base is the crown jewel of the Air Force, and it’s a great honor. We were chosen as the best in the country.” Sanders told the Packet.
“We’re very proud to receive the first award,” said Roger Burlingame, a member of the Columbus Military Affairs Committee. “As one of the smallest AETC base communities, we have a strong relationship with our Air Force base that has many facets. We understand those who are assigned to Columbus are only going to be with us for a short period of time and we have a deep reverence for the sacrifices they make on behalf of our community and country. We’ve become accustomed to welcoming our Air Force friends into our homes, schools, churches and community activities and so we do everything we can to make Columbus ‘home’ for our Air Force families.”
Eight AETC communities took part in the competition and according to Dr. Joe Leverett, Chairman of the Altus Chamber of Commerce Military Affairs Committee, the competition was extremely close.
“All eight applications were really strong and especially between Columbus and Little Rock,” said Dr. Leverett.
Finalists in the competition were judged by two former AETC commanders, retired generals Bill Looney and Don Cook. All eight of the communities participating had their application binders on display at the AETC Symposium, where more than 3,500 people had the opportunity to look at the contributions each community has made to their respective Air Force bases. “This award has been earned by all of the citizens of Columbus and Lowndes County Mississippi,” said Mr. Burlingame. “We are glad to have won but we would do it without the recognition. It gives us pride just knowing we play some small part in the preparation.
Members of the Altus, Oklahoma Chamber of Commerce’s Military Affairs Committee presented the first Air Education and Training Command Community Support Award (Altus Trophy) at the AETC Symposium Jan. 20 in San Antonio, Texas. The Altus Chamber’s Military Affairs Committee has been developing this award with AETC for three years.
“Three years of work came together that morning,” said Dr. Joe Leverett, Chairman of the Altus Chamber of Commerce Military Affairs Committee. “We presented at the opening ceremony in front of 3,000 troops. It was very gratifying and validated the importance of the award.”
According to the Altus Chamber website, the award is presented annually by the AETC commander and the Altus Military Affairs Committee, to a civilian community for outstanding support to a nearby AETC base or unit in the spirit of cooperation for which Altus is well known.
“This award only restates what I have felt from the first moment I arrived,” said Col. Barre Seguin, 14th Flying Training Wing commander, Columbus AFB, Miss. “That we have the best community support in the Air Force.”
The Altus Trophy was delivered to CAFB via a C-130 transport plane, secured in a custom-made wooden crate for a ceremony Saturday morning. Columbus Mayor Robert Smith and CAFB Colonel Barre “Heat” Seguin addressed the assembled crowd.
Seguin began by reading a letter from General Edward A. Rice, Jr. of the US Air Force:
“Dear Colonel Seguin, it is my honor to congratulate you for your community’s selection as the first ever recipient of the Altus trophy. You officially have the most supportive community in Air Education and Training Command –quite an accomplishment. Public support is vitally important in for our effectiveness as defenders of freedom, and without it we could not accomplish the mission. You and your team have done an excellent job of joining with local, community partners to take care of our airmen at home so they may train for and execute our contingency operations overseas. Congratulations for a job well done, sincerely, General Edward A. Rice Jr. United States Air Force”
“This is an award that is 70 years in the making, and it started back in1941, when the community forefathers got together and solicited our US government to build an Airfield here to build an airfield to train pilots for WWII, and they leased it to the government for $1 a year. I think it’s a 100 yr lease, so I hope to renew it at the same rate.” Seguin joked
“Thanks to all of our community leaders for being here today…I want to extend a hand to our leaders who made it to San Antonio, we received the award in front of 4000 people, it was a phenomenal event.” Col. Barre said.
Col. Seguin remarked that other competing cities had presentation books that dwarfed the Columbus one in size, but evidently not in content. Other areas had spent months preparing their applications, but Seguin noted the Columbus presentation won out because it focused on the community above all else.
“Thanks you for what you do for our airmen and our families” Seguin said.
“This award is a big deal, it’s something we should all be proud of. Columbus has shown a great deal of community support for the base” said Mayor Smith.
Columbus Mayor Robert Smith praised the Columbus Military Affairs committee and the members that made the trip. He said he doesn’t expect a replica to be here next year, he plans to win again next year.
“I’m not planning on letting this thing go, I want this trophy to come back again and again to Columbus.” Smith said.
Members of the Columbus Lowndes Development Link’s Military Affairs Committee:
Link Staff: Maureen Lipscomb, Melissa Cook, Boyce Adams, Jr., John Almond, Bobby Berry, Barbara Bigelow, Chuck Bigelow, Roger Burlingame, Dixie Butler, Nancy Carpenter, Michael Davis, John Davis, Brennan Dulaney, Ann Eagerton, Doris Eaves, Howard Ferguson, Angela Ferraez, Betsy Galloway, Rebecca Goodell, Gwen Granderson, Marleen B. Hansen, Julie Heintz, Patti Johnson, Andy Kalinowski, Ken Kennedy, Glenn Lautzenhiser, Paul McCreary, Floyd McIntyre, Jim Mullis, Lynn Robinson, Jeannie Sansing, Nelson Smith, Bob Taylor, Jamie Taylor, JoAnn Walk Ferguson, Rufus Ward, Charles Weldon, Emily Williams
This article contains excerpts from USAF press releases.