McConnell selects three new Golden Eagles

by Pat Gallagher, Military Affairs, Wichita Regional Chamber of Commerce

Pat Gallagher has been a Golden Eagle since 2009.

In the 1990s the Honorary Commander program was introduced on McConnell Air Force Base (AFB) and approximately twenty local business leaders were partnered with military members on base who, when it could be arranged, had a job on base that was somewhat similar to that of the civilian with whom he/she was matched. Some Honorary Commanders became frequent visitors on base participating in group or squadron activities and any other base opportunity that was open to them.

McConnell AFB later introduced the Golden Eagle award to recognize outstanding volunteer service and as a vehicle for base leadership to thank Honorary Commanders for their exceptional dedication. Only seven civilians have been named Golden Eagles since the program started.

First among those to earn the award were Robin Spurrier (Spurrier Chemical Companies), Keith Lesher (Lesher Investments) and Bob Dool (Mid-Continent Safety).  Jack Pulley with Davis-Moore Automotive Group was the fourth Eagle selected. Rael Hodgson with State Farm Insurance was named Eagle number five and I became a Golden Eagle in 2009. Wayne Roberts with Pioneer Balloon was selected for the award in 2011.

All of the Golden Eagles have been in leadership positions with the Friends of McConnell (FOM), the civilian support organization that has provided financial support to airmen and family related programs and events on McConnell for 60 years. The FOM is an affiliate of the Wichita Regional Chamber of Commerce.

Frank Suellentrop with Legacy Bank is one of three new Golden Eagles.

Three Golden Eagles have recently been selected to join the McConnell Eagle rank: Frank Suellentrop (Legacy Bank); James Havers-Strong (ABI Group); and Joel Rodell (Hutton Construction). All three business leaders have been exemplary supporters of their commanders, the airmen and their families. They are worthy recipients of this unique recognition.

Col. Josh M. Olson, 22nd ARW commander said, “We welcome these three outstanding community leaders to the prestigious Golden Eagles. The group is a direct reflection of the unsurpassed support our Airmen receive from this community. We look forward to work with them as we support combat air-refueling options downrange and bring on the next generation tanker in the upcoming months.”

Rodell said, “Becoming a Golden Eagle is a humbling experience and I look forward to contributing to the program. McConnell is a tremendous asset to Wichita and the surrounding communities. The opportunity to collaborate at a deeper level and help support their mission is something I’m very excited to be part of.”

Suellentrop agreed with Rodell and added that “It’s a great surprise and honor for me. Laura and I have really enjoyed our time as Honorary Commanders.”

We congratulate the newest Golden Eagles and thank all the Chamber members who strive to make McConnell AFB a great assignment for all those serving our country. Please contact the Chamber (316-268-1157) if you’d like to learn more about how you or your company can become more actively involved with the Friends of McConnell.

Chamber Celebrates Wichita Flag Day and Abilene Trophy

This morning’s Sunrise Scrambler celebrated the awarding of the Abilene Trophy to the Friends of McConnell as well as the premiere of a new video for the 80th anniversary of the adoption of the city’s official flag.

Elected officials and military leaders helped the Friends of McConnell celebrate winning the Abilene Trophy award.

ABILENE TROPHY
The Friends of McConnell, an affiliate of the Wichita Regional Chamber of Commerce, was announced as the recipient of the 2016 Abilene Trophy on April 28. The award was officially presented today by Abilene Trophy representatives, Yvonne Batts and Scott Senter. It’s given annually to the community that demonstrates the most support of its local Air Force Base. Also known as the Air Mobility Command Community Support Award, this is the first time that Wichita has been selected for the award since it was initiated in 1998.

Elected officials and representatives of McConnell Air Force Base were on hand to congratulate the Friends of McConnell on the relationships they have built between the community and the Base. Colonel Al Miller from McConnell Air Force Base remarked during today’s ceremony that no other community that he has been assigned to comes close to the Wichita community in support of Airmen.

Please see our Facebook page and Twitter account for more photos and information.

The 80th anniversary of the Wichita flag was also celebrated today.

WICHITA FLAG DAY
Through the generosity of numerous sponsors and partners, the Chamber kicked off the 80th anniversary of the adoption of the city’s official flag this morning with a new video and free items that Wichitans can download to share their pride.

VIDEO

  • The Chamber partnered with World Studios ICT in downtown Wichita to produce a 3-minute video highlighting the history and symbolism behind the flag. The video, titled Your Wichita Flag, is posted on the Chamber’s Facebook page.
  • The video includes sixteen Wichitans who donated their time and talent to participate – Wichita Mayor Jeff Longwell, Jamil Malone, Tammy Allen, Ben Jennings, Madison Harris, Paul Blissett, Angie Elliott, Jonathon Long, Jason Villanueva, Ellen Decker, Courtney Sendall, Royce Stevenson, Jackie Ebert, Jackson Ebert, Cassandra Bryan and Brad Painchaud.

DOWNLOADS

  • A website devoted to the promotion of the #ILoveWichita and @WichitaFlag campaign now has three printables that can be downloaded at ilovewichita.org.
  1. Coloring sheet with flag facts
  2. 11×17 two-sided printed flag with flag information
  3. Copyright information about using the flag
  • Special note:  The coloring sheet was developed as a result of a Chamber brainstorming session with communication students at Wichita State University’s Elliott School of Communication last fall. After learning about the Chamber’s grassroots pride-in-place initiative, the students recommended instilling community pride at an earlier age and focusing on preschool and grade school children.

Special thanks to our Wichita flag partners: World Studios ICT, The Wichita Eagle, VIP Wichita Magazine and Fidelity Bank.

And our sincere gratitude to this month’s Sunrise Scrambler sponsors:  Golden Plains Credit Union, Friends University, Burnell’s Fine Jewelry, Davis-Moore Auto Group and Together Wichita.

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.

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.