Celebrating 60th anniversary of the KC-135

This letter to the editor was published in today’s Wichita Eagle. It was submitted by Jack Pulley, Chairman of the Friends of McConnell and Pat Gallagher, Military Liaison for the Wichita Metro Chamber of Commerce. 

Today McConnell Air Force Base will host a celebration of the 60th anniversary of the first flight of the Boeing KC-135 Stratotanker. More than 50 years after the delivery of that first KC-135, the fleet remains an integral part of Wichita’s aviation history and an essential component of our nation’s defense system.FOM - Tanker Anniversary

Next year will bring exciting new opportunities. McConnell AFB will greet the next generation refueler, the KC-46 Pegasus, designed to replace the aging KC-135 fleet.  Many local businesses and contractors have been working to ensure the base is on target to welcome this exciting new aircraft.

Before the last of the McConnell’s Stratotankers has been replaced, however, we have an opportunity to pay homage to their great history. We are thankful that McConnell’s airmen and leadership team are part of our community and we have a deep respect for the service they provide to our nation.

On this important anniversary date the Friends of McConnell and the Wichita Metro Chamber of Commerce express our sincere appreciation to all those who serve at McConnell Air Force Base. We are grateful the base is part of our community and congratulate each of you on the pivotal role you have played in making this special anniversary celebration possible

The Friends of McConnell (FOM), an affiliate organization of the Wichita Metro Chamber of Commerce, is a support group of area business leaders and residents dedicated to providing meaningful social and economic linkage between senior military leaders and their metropolitan civilian counterparts. The FOM seeks to express community pride and appreciation of the area’s military by providing organizational and financial support for Commander directed programs on base. A primary goal of the Friends of McConnell is to make McConnell AFB the most desirable assignment of an Airman’s career.

USS Wichita crest celebrates city’s roots

By Lyndsey Edwards

Photo by Derek Pruett

Photo by Derek Pruett

The new USS Wichita under construction in a Wisconsin shipyard is actually the third ship to bear Wichita’s name. This version of the USS Wichita (LCS-13) will be nearly 400 feet long and sprint at top speeds of over 40 knots.

The vessel’s crest was recently unveiled and the design offers insight into the history of our city. The red and white partition of the shield and the Zia Sun are properties from the flag of the City of Wichita. The city’s flag was adopted 79 years ago and each design element has a specific meaning. The red and white rays symbolize the path of freedom to come and go as one pleases. The blue disc or sun represents happiness and contentment. Stitched on the blue sun is an Indian symbol for Hogan or permanent home, represented by a white circle with four sets of three parallel rays emanating from the circle’s principal axis.

Along with the flag, the crest displays other familiar city and state symbols. A buffalo skull symbolizes the Wichita Indians, wheat stalks represent the main crop of Kansas and its residents, and feathers pay tribute to Wichita’s Native American heritage. The ship’s motto, “KEEPER OF THE SEAS,” honors Wichita’s iconic Keeper of the Plains sculpture.

The USS Wichita should be christened in early fall. The two previous ships named after Wichita earned 17 battle stars and the Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal.

Contact Pat Gallagher (316-268-1157) at the Chamber for more details about upcoming USS Wichita events.

FOM – Paying it forward

As we celebrate the Fourth of July this week, we’ll also be remembering the sacrifices so many families and individuals have made throughout our history to ensure that our country remains free and independent. It’s also a good time to thank the local airmen of McConnell Air Force Base for fulfilling their current mission.

FOM donates Wichita River Festival buttons to airmen at McConnell AFB as one of their hospitality programs.

FOM donates Wichita River Festival buttons to airmen at McConnell AFB as one of their hospitality programs.

The Friends of McConnell (FOM) is a Chamber affiliate that strives to make sure the airmen at McConnell Air Force Base hear that message of appreciation year-round directly from the Wichita business community. Originally formed in the 1960s, the FOM is comprised of business leaders and individuals working to ensure that McConnell AFB is the most appealing assignment in the careers of the airmen and officers who serve there. They also provide meaningful social and economic linkages between senior military leaders and their civilian counterparts.

The FOM is involved in more than 30 events and programs a year that support McConnell airmen and their families. The group is recognized by past and current McConnell officers as being instrumental in the decision of many airmen to stay in Wichita once they retire. In the words of retired Colonel Cathy McClain, “The Friends of McConnell pay it forward.”

Chamber Board members like Claudio Ferraro of Via Christi believe the FOM is vital to forging strong bonds between the Base and the community. Ferraro recently said, “FOM has served as the catalyst directly linking Via Christi and McConnell AFB. Via Christi’s role in supporting McConnell would not be where it is had FOM not thrived under its longstanding visionary leadership.”

We salute the Friends of McConnell leadership and members for everything they do to support the mission of McConnell AFB and strengthen the ties between the airmen and our community. We invite you to learn more about the Friends of McConnell and their mission by visiting their Facebook page or the Chamber’s website.

Have a safe celebration.

Wayne Roberts – McConnell Air Force Base Champion

Roberts, H. Wayne with flag

Wayne Roberts

It’s been gratifying to see Wichita State University basketball coach Gregg Marshall winning national accolades for his outstanding leadership during the last several weeks. Everyone recognizes that success depends on leaders who believe in your cause, develop winning strategies, and then implement their plans with passion.

The Chamber’s Tanker Task Force was fortunate to enjoy that type of leadership under volunteer Wayne Roberts. A member of the Chamber’s Friends of McConnell organization, Roberts received the highest recognition that a local military installation can bestow upon a civilian several years ago when he was appointed a Golden Eagle and an Honorary Commander. These appointments were in  recognition of his support of local airmen and his volunteer efforts on their behalf.

Roberts took the reins of the Tanker Task Force when it was formed in 2012, and began focusing his efforts on doing everything possible to ensure that McConnell won the new KC-46A program.

In August of that year, Roberts led a delegation including representatives from Sedgwick County, GWEDC and the Chamber to the Pentagon where they met with the Air Force Deputy Chief of Staff, the Assistant Secretary of the Air Force and other personnel who were strategically involved in the selection process for the basing of the KC-46A.

Recognizing that the national competition for this program would be fierce, Roberts and Friends of McConnell President Jack Pulley kept elected officials, community leaders, and the media briefed on the program’s developments.  In the spring of 2013, he and a select group of Task Force members met with Air Mobility Command at Scott Air Force Base to brief General Paul Selva and others on the many advantages of selecting McConnell Air Force Base for the critical new mission.

The Tanker Task Force successfully promoted two information sessions in 2013 that the Air Force held to gauge public interest in the project. Both sessions were very well attended, in part because Roberts and Pulley spent time educating the public about these opportunities through radio, TV, and newspaper interviews. Roberts and Pulley were the always-available spokespersons on all things related to the Tanker project.

The importance of the KC-46A program to the economy of South Central Kansas cannot be overstated. And Wichita received more good news about it last month. We’re one step closer to celebrating the final announcement this year that the KC-46A program will officially arrive at McConnell Air Force Base in 2016. U.S. Rep Mike Pompeo shared the news with local media that the Base has passed the last step of the process with a positive environmental impact study. An Air Force spokesperson confirmed that the Base is on track for an official announcement this spring that it will be the first main active-duty base to receive the new tankers. Links to some of that media coverage are available here:

As we await the final announcement, it’s a fitting time to recognize our community leaders who have devoted so much time and expertise to securing this new mission for McConnell.  Wayne Roberts has long recognized that McConnell Air Force Base is a critical contributor to the area economy.  And he has spent the last two years of his time in Wichita making sure that Wichita doesn’t have to contemplate what the community would have faced if the Base hadn’t been at the top of the list for the new tankers.

We wish Wayne and his wife, Norma, all the best as they retire from their leadership positions at Pioneer Balloon and begin a new phase of their life in another part of the country. We’ll miss his leadership, expertise and passionate support of McConnell Air Force Base. Wichita is better prepared for the future thanks to his dedication.

Invitation to bid on McConnell work

There are approximately 10 projects that will be undertaken at McConnell Air Force Base to support the new tanker, should McConnell be confirmed as the selected base in late spring 2014.  Bids for the first project, and likely the biggest, are due to the Federal Government by March 28.  The finalists are now looking for sub-contractors for services ranging from heavy steel to landscaping, and are interested in local, small businesses that can provide these capabilities.  Please click here for specific information.

AFB

What Made the KC-46A Tanker Hearing a Success

Tanker Publid Hearing - November 039_cropWe had a successful Public Hearing for the KC-46A Tanker program this week.  More than 150 people actually signed in with the Air Force and we counted 200+ attendees. It was impressive to see so many business leaders, elected officials, and area residents dedicate their evening to supporting McConnell Air Force Base.

We are especially appreciative of those who offered public comments.  Our speakers included:

Susan Erlenwein        Sedgwick County Environmental Resources
Claudio Ferraro          Via Christi Health
Ryan Flickner             Office of Senator Pat Roberts
Debbie Gann              Wichita Metro Chamber of Commerce
Jim Howell                  Kansas House of Representatives
Toni Porter                  Office of Congressman Mike Pompeo
Jack Pulley                 Friends of McConnell
Wayne Roberts          WMC Tanker Task Force
John Schlegel            City of Wichita Planning Department
Kathy Sexton             City of Derby
Jim Skelton                Sedgwick County Commission
Victor White               Wichita Airport Authority
Tim Witsman             Wichita Independent Business Association
Mike Zamrzla             Office of Senator Jerry Moran

All of the public comments were on target and very positive.  As expected, we didn’t hear a single negative comment. At the end of the evening, all three members of the Air Force panel complimented us on a good turnout and well-prepared speakers.  

Many people in the community put forth a lot of effort to ensure that the hearing went smoothly. I owe a great debt of gratitude to our Congressional offices and the responsiveness of their teams. Some of our elected officials who couldn’t attend the hearing took the time to videotape supportive messages. Wichita Mayor Carl Brewer spent time discussing the issue with local media and submitted an impressive editorial to the Wichita Eagle. Our Derby partners, Kathy Sexton and Allison Moeding, also participated in media interviews. The Chamber and the Wichita Independent Business Association made sure that all of their members were well-informed about the importance of attending the event. And of course, our tireless Tanker Task Force Chairman, Wayne Roberts, and Friends of McConnell President, Jack Pulley, were great spokespersons when interviewed by various print and electronic media outlets.

We’re also appreciative of the many media outlets that assisted us in providing information to the public about the event. Special thanks to:  99.7 Light FM, KNSS Radio, 104.5 The Fox, KAKE-TV, KSN-TV, KWCH-TV, the Wichita Business Journal and The Wichita Eagle.

You can view the editorial, videotaped messages, articles, and interviews on the Friends of McConnell Facebook page. Photos from the event are also available at this site.  The Air Force will continue to accept public comments until December 9, 2013. You may access a comment form at this site: http://www.kc46abeddown.com/common/authenticate.aspx?rtype=1

We expect a final decision on this important program in late Spring of 2014. We anticipate sharing positive news with you at that time.

Pat Gallagher
Wichita Metro Chamber
Military Liaison

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