By Christine Spargur
375th Air Mobility Wing Public Affairs
Base and community leaders signed a Memorandum of Understanding on June 8 at the Scott Club formalizing an agreement to explore and pursue potential partnership opportunities.
The Air Force Community Partnership Program is a framework through which installation and public/private sector community leaders can develop creative ways to leverage their capabilities and resources by finding shared valued and benefit. The goal of the program is to enhance mission viability and improve Airmen resiliency while implementing collaborative projects that reduce operations and services costs or reduce risks and provide mutual value to the Air Force or Department of Defense and local communities.
Scott Air Force Base is one among 40 Air Force installations participating in the program.
Discussions began last fall with local government, area community groups, and academic institutions meeting to brainstorm ways in which they and Scott AFB could mutually share or combine resources or collaborate on programs. Lt. Col. Beth Graboritz, deputy commander of the 375th Mission Support Group, said, “After base leadership met with the Air Force program managers to understand the process and potential benefits, we invited county government, area mayors, and civic groups out to the base to discuss ways we could better connect with one another. We learned more about each other’s missions, goals, and resources so we could identify commonalities and differences.
“What we discovered,” said Graboritz, “is that while Scott already has a very robust and healthy relationship with our local communities there are areas neither parties had realized where there may be new opportunities to work together.”
During the initial brainstorming meeting, base and communities leaders created a list of potential projects. To better focus the group’s efforts, the list was narrowed down and six categories of partnership opportunity emerged: community employment, storm water management, shared fitness instructors and programs, growing a cyber community, building a joint-use multi-functional firing range, and shared first responder and tactical training. There is a military and a civilian lead for each partnership category who organize and facilitate meetings. As projects develop, the leads notify leadership of execution requirements and budget needs. If the leads discover roadblocks along the way, the Air Force Community Partnership program managers provide direct access to Air Force-level experts to identify solutions.
Col Kyle Kremer, commander 375th Air Mobility Wing, said, “One of the advantages of working issues through the Air Force Community Partnership Program is having the ability to communicate directly with the policy and decision makers at Air Force level,” “This program is a tremendous benefit to Scott because it allows us to creatively explore ways we can meet our mission and quality of life needs in this constrained fiscal environment while capitalizing on the strong relationships we have with the surrounding communities.”
One successful outcome from the discussions was a new collaborative event between the Airman and Family Readiness Center, St. Clair and Madison Counties, the Leadership Council Southwestern Illinois, the Belle-Scott Committee and other regional partners to help separating or retiring servicemembers meet with potential employers. Held once last fall and again this spring, the Speed Networking Night is a fast-paced, one-on-one formatted event where servicemembers work their way around the room to talk with employers about current job openings.
Ellen Krohne, executive director of the Leadership Council Southwestern Illinois, said, “We help the base identify employers who are looking for local talent. These employers know military men and women are well-trained, disciplined, ambitious, skilled professionals. They are eager to hire them into their companies.
“Helping our servicemembers transition to civilian employment not only keeps our local economy strong but also it’s the right thing to do. We must honor the military for all they give and sacrifice for the freedoms we as American enjoy,” said Krohne “Our various partners are thrilled to be a part of this initiative and we look forward to working with the Airman & Family Readiness Center to identify even more ways to connect employers to the military at Scott.”
Another project in the works through Scott’s Air Force Community Partnership Program is the sharing of fitness instructors and programs. Working with the local YMCA, the base is looking for new ways to enhance base fitness programs.
Kremer said, “Besides the need for more parking, the base gyms are the most popular topic I as the base commander hear about. We know the gyms are outdated and at peak times overcrowded. We’ve made many improvements in the past year like the James Gym track. However, considering the reality of today’s Department of Defense’s budget, a new gym isn’t likely to be built for quite some time. Having the YMCA’s participation in Scott’s Community Partnership Program has given us a new outlet to explore ways we can make our fitness programs on base better.”
The YMCA and base fitness specialists are working on a survey to identify which fitness programs are of the greatest interest to the base community. The results of the survey will then be used to determine what new programs can be offered and how.
“This is another example of how well the Air Force Community Partnership works,” said Graboritz. “We started talking to the YMCA several years ago but weren’t able to make positive traction until we refreshed the conversation under this partnership program. Now, working within the structure of the Air Force Community Partnership Program, we have a way to move past roadblocks more quickly to keep the projects going.”
The other projects in discussion through Scott’s Air Force Community Partnership Program include ways to prevent future flooding on base, building a new joint-use multi-functional firing for weapons qualifications, promoting greater collaboration between base and community emergency responders for crisis training, and creating a collective military and community forum to discuss issues related to the emerging field of cyber studies and cyber warfare.
The signing of the Memorandum of Understanding is a written commitment by base and community leaders to continue meeting and talking about these partnership opportunities. The program is not limited to these original projects. As new ideas or needs arise, they can be incorporated into Scott’s Air Force Community Partnership Program.