Team Seymour Civic Leaders Tour Eielson AFB

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Mary McKnight
  • 916th Air Refueling Wing

Team Seymour boarded a KC-135 Stratotanker June 20, destined for Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska, in an effort to familiarize themselves with the Eielson AFB mission and community.

The civic leader flight consisted of personnel from the Wayne Chamber of Commerce, 4th Fighter Wing, and 916th Air Refueling Wing leadership.  The driving force behind the flight was to show a collaborative effort exposing local leaders to a wing in a different geographic location, with similar operations and adversities as Seymour Johnson.

“Our civic leaders are advocates for airpower and the Air Force,” said Col. Craig McPike, commander of the 916th ARW. “In order for them to advocate on our behalf, we have to ensure they’re informed about our mission dynamics.”

The Eielson AFB tour began with the 354th Fighter Wing and 168th Wing mission briefings.  In addition to the mission brief, key points of emphasis were placed on providing the civic leaders an in-depth understanding of Red Flag-Alaska.

The topic of Red Flag-Alaska led to a discussion among Team Seymour, Eielson AFB, and local Alaskan officials comparing Red Flag-Alaska and Razor Talon.

Red Flag-Alaska is a large-scale field training exercise held at Eielson AFB every June. This exercise was designed to enable participants to share realistic combat experience, tactics and increased bilateral integration in a controlled environment.

Razor Talon is a low-cost large force training exercise opportunity for joint East Coast tactical and support aviation units that Seymour Johnson participates in monthly.

The similarities and differences between the two exercises were a commonality that the two bases share and were able to mutually gain from one another.    

“The Seymour Johnson AFB civic and community leaders had a big impact on the Iceman Team and the Fairbanks North Star Borough,” said Col. Benjamin W. Bishop, commander of the 354th FW. “It allowed us to introduce our local honorary commanders and civic partners to the Seymour Johnson community leadership. This created an opportunity for an exchange of ideas to occur, which was very beneficial for both parties. There are some things we do really well out here in the interior of Alaska and there are some things they do really well out there in North Carolina. Now that we’ve learned from each other, all of us will be able to take those lessons back and better support our respective missions, Airmen and communities,” said Bishop.

Civic leaders from Eielson AFB shared best practices with civic leaders from Seymour Johnson AFB on how they lobby for the best interest of their base and community.

Eielson AFB has a Tiger Team made up of local community leaders and state officials, similar to Seymour Johnson AFB, Friends of Seymour Johnson. The Tiger Team and Friends of Seymour Johnson discussed strategies to best protect our military communities from scaling down on military operations. The Tiger Team provided specific details on the strategy that allowed them to fend off force reduction and secure the F-35 Lightning II, a new fighter coming to Eielson AFB.

Col. Bishop’s thoughts echoed what Col. McPike was hoping to gain from this experience.

“What we’re hoping they understand is just how important it is to ensure we maintain our airspace superiority,” said McPike. “They can use that information to communicate and inform our representatives. We also want them to understand our role as force multipliers and the unique combat, communications and force aeromedical and evacuation capabilities the KC-46 will bring when it arrives.”

This discussion could not have come at a better time as the 916th ARW is currently in the process transitioning from the KC-135 Stratotanker to the KC-46A Pegasus.

“The KC-46 is already changing the landscape of Seymour Johnson,” said Lt. Col. Ron Brand, KC-46 PIO with the 916th ARW. “We are currently renovating six facilities and another two more are in the planning stage. The two-bay hangar is 40 percent complete and is set to be the largest hangar on base. As we make more and more changes to the base and local area it’s important to set both communities up for success. Acquiring firsthand knowledge from those who are in a similar position is one of the ways we can make that happen.”

At 3,428 miles away from Seymour Johnson AFB it is safe to say that Eielson AFB is definitely not a hop, skip or jump away. Despite the distance Team Seymour was able to not only gain best practices, but build a relationship with a base similar in dynamics. 

"I appreciate the Goldsboro Military Affairs Committee and the Friends of Seymour Johnson for participating in the furthest civic leader flight we have ever orchestrated," said McPike. Additionally, he expressed his appreciation for the partnership with Col. Donn C. Yates, commander of the 4th FW, and the entire 4th FW team.

Col. McPike was not alone in his appreciation for this trip and the knowledge gained.

Henry Smith, a civic leader from Goldsboro who was instrumental in facilitating this flight, described the civic leaders as leaving Eielson AFB with a better understanding of the dynamic community-relations program and the base-community connection.

Team Seymour re-boarded the 916th ARW KC-135 for their return flight, June 23. Their effort to familiarize themselves with the mission and community of Eielson AFB was a success.  They are now armed with the tools and best practices for the continued investment of the mission and community growth of Seymour Johnson and Goldsboro.