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.