Communities in the Fight panel underscores importance of collaboration

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. William A. O’Brien
  • Secretary of the Air Force Public Affairs

The Air and Space Forces Association hosted a “Communities in the Fight” panel discussion at the AFA’s Air, Space and Cyber Conference at National Harbor Sept. 20.

Moderated by Kathleen Ferguson, Roosevelt Group senior advisor, the four-member panel featured Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. CQ Brown, Jr., Robert Moriarty, Air Force Installations deputy assistant secretary, Matt Borron, Association for Defense Communities executive director, and Glen McDonald, Bay Defense Alliance vice president.

The panelists examined how the national security landscape has changed, calling for increased collaboration between the Air Force, federal, state, and local governments, and surrounding communities, to ensure Airmen have the benefits and services they need to focus on the mission without concern for their or their families’ welfare.

“The fight has evolved and grown today,” Ferguson said, opening the panel. “Our panelists will discuss how our military members, their families, and their commanders can engage the community to help solve some of the quality-of-life challenges we face.”

Although specific challenges tend to vary by location, Brown highlighted five common challenges military families experience, which includes childcare, education, healthcare, housing, and spousal employment, and encouraged frequent dialogue between installation and community leaders to identify areas of mutual interest and opportunity.

“Every installation has unique problems and requires unique solutions,” Moriarty added. Creating a specific policy that works for a specific installation may not work across the board, he explained; however, having an action-oriented mindset can help identify creative solutions to unique, modern issues military communities are facing.

“When you talk about a partnership program, it is more of a mindset than a program,” Moriarty said. “We can talk about intergovernmental service agreements such as grass cutting, trash pickup, snow removal, fixing roads, etcetera – but that’s only one part of the partnership. We have gotten dormitory capacity in some of our smaller communities through partnerships. We’ve gotten educational opportunities through partnerships – but all of that started with some installation devoting community-building resources and figuring out a way.”

“Do not wait,” McDonald said, addressing community leaders in attendance. “Don’t think someone else is going to do it. Be kind and courageous and go talk to your military members. When you have an idea, don’t be scared to tell them. Some of the greatest ideas come from the smallest thoughts.”

The panel agreed successful partnerships between the Air Force and surrounding communities should not be built in the middle of a crisis but forged through long-term working relationships with local community leaders and agencies.

Brown closed the panel with two overarching points.

“We cannot continue to do the same thing and expect a different result,” he said. “We’ve got to challenge ourselves. I believe in challenging the status quo. We need people at all levels to do things that make us nervous. I often talk about Ted Lasso. One of the things he says is ‘When you’re driving change or going against a challenge, it’s like riding a horse. If you’re comfortable, you’re probably not doing it right.’ If we’re driving change, we should be a little bit uncomfortable. If you’re too comfortable then you’re probably not doing something right. So, think about Ted Lasso the next time you want to drive change.”