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Air Force civic leaders visit USAFE

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Joshua L. DeMotts
  • Secretary of the Air Force Public Affairs Command Information
“Pull the pin and throw it!”

Time seemed to stand still as the sudden rush of pressurized smoke escaped the canister.

Ting … pffft … pfffffff…

Those words and the proceeding actions are what injected an exhausted and jet-lagged group of 21 Air Force civic leaders with a dose of adrenaline.

Mission creep had set in on the group as they were five days into a weeklong, eventful, information gathering mission, but the red smoke now billowing out of the smoke grenade on the flightline of Royal Air Force Base Lakenheath, England, was a wake-up call. It was also the signal marking the landing zone for Air Force pararescuemen responding to an exercise where a convoy had come under simulated attack and required the rescue of an injured Airman.

The civic leaders were nearly asleep in their bus when they approached the overturned Security Forces vehicle that appeared to have taken a blast from an improvised explosive device.

The group watched as Airmen with the 48th Security Forces Squadron provided security for pararescuemen assigned to the 57th Rescue Squadron, as they jumped into the landing zone. Highly skilled in personnel recovery, the pararescuemen bounded to the scene and seamlessly transitioned from M-4 carbines to power tools, rescued the trapped Airman and were then hoisted onto a HH-60 Pave Hawk operated by the 56th Rescue Squadron.

The scenario described above was not a real-life event, but training that showcased the combat search and rescue capabilities of Airmen stationed at RAF Lakenheath. Air Force civic leaders, weren’t really on a tactical mission; however, the importance of their visit to several bases in Europe is real.

The Air Force Civic Leader Program is an Air Staff-level program whose membership is comprised of community leaders selected by the Air Force major commands, National Guard Bureau and Headquarters Air Force.

The group consisted of leaders from a wide variety of industries and sectors including banking and economic development, construction, manufacturing, education, healthcare, science and technology.

Members are unpaid advisers, key communicators and advocates for Air Force issues. They provide ideas and feedback to the secretary of the Air Force, Air Force chief of staff, and Air Force senior leaders about public attitudes toward the Air Force.

As liaisons, they serve as an interface between the Air Force and their communities. They explain and interpret Air Force programs, positions and issues to other key local communicators through personal contact and correspondence, and to the general public through various outreach efforts that include speeches, articles, social media, as well as local, regional, state, and national activities.

Air Force civic leaders typically serve for four years in a “current” status, thereafter serve as a civic leader emeritus. The members meet up to three times a year, once in Washington D.C. and one or two times at an Air Force installation.

According to Air Force Vice Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein, who escorted the group on the trip, exposing civic leaders to Airmen and families who live and work with allies and partners every day in their countries is essential. Civic leader events afford a level of communication that significantly contributes to the public’s understanding of our current state of readiness, as well as operational challenges and issues.

“Bringing civic leaders to Europe to witness firsthand the importance of our mission there is vital,” Goldfein said. “Most importantly, they met Airmen and family members who have been sent forward to build vital relationships with our allies and demonstrate our resolve and commitment to European safety and security.”

On this trip, the civic leaders got an inside look at Ramstein and Spangdahlem Air Bases in Germany, RAF Lakenheath and RAF Mildenhall in England, as well as a stop in Paris to attend the 100th anniversary ceremony to celebrate the Lafayette Escadrille.

The National Military Strategy states that the U.S. military’s purpose is to protect the U.S. and its interests, and central to these efforts is strengthening America’s global network of allies and partners. This trip provided the group the opportunity to witness firsthand the efforts the Air Force is making to enhance partner capacity and maintain constant readiness to deter mutual threats.

Members of the group said that because of the trip, they now have a higher degree of understanding of the Air Force’s abilities to protect and defend America’s interests.

“Each of our Airmen in USAFE is building and nurturing relationships every day as they work side by side with our allies and local communities,” said Michael Gin, an Air Force civic leader. “This experience has taught me that each of our Airmen not only is responsible for their daily work duties in the Air Force, they are also unofficial ambassadors for our nation and each one of us who has the privilege of being an American.”