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97th MXG leaders host honorary commanders for immersion day

Woman sprays a hose

Tony Jenkins, 97th Maintenance Squadron work leader, watches as Emily Smith, honorary commander, sprays the hose that is used to clean aircraft, Jan. 14, 2020, at Altus Air Force Base, Oklahoma. Smith is a financial advisor in Altus, Oklahoma. (U.S. Air Force photo by Judy Mott)

Man shows people a plane

Thomas Woodward (third from left), 97th Maintenance Squadron work supervisor, shows a group of honorary commanders the fuel boom of a KC-135 Stratotanker, Jan. 14, 2020, at Altus Air Force Base, Oklahoma. The honorary commanders were attending an immersion day with the 97th Maintenance Group. (U.S. Air Force photo by 2nd Lt. Cameron Silver)

Two men hold miniature planes

Dale Latham (left) and Flint Runyan, honorary commanders, show their laser-cut, miniature KC-46 Pegasus’ made for them by 97th Maintenance Squadron machinists, Jan. 14, 2020, at Altus Air Force Base, Oklahoma. Latham is the superintendent and CEO of Southwest Technology Center in Altus, Oklahoma and Runyan is a city board member in Cache, Oklahoma. (U.S. Air Force photo by 2nd Lt. Cameron Silver)

Man shows two people how to rivet

Roy Cruz (center), 97th Maintenance Squadron work leader, shows Roger Heap (left) and Emily Smith, honorary commanders, proper riveting technique, Jan. 14, 2020, at Altus Air Force Base, Oklahoma. Heap is a community leader in Frederick, Oklahoma and Smith is a financial advisor in Altus, Oklahoma. (U.S. Air Force photo by 2nd Lt. Cameron Silver)

Two people lay in plane

Roger Heap (left), honorary commander, and Lt. Col. Michelle Marty, judge advocate for the 97th Air Mobility Wing, lay in the observer pallet and instructor boom pallet of a KC-135 Stratotanker, Jan. 14, 2020, at Altus Air Force Base, Oklahoma. Heap is a community leader in Frederick, Oklahoma. (U.S. Air Force photo by Judy Mott)

Man shows people how to calibrate tools

Brian Schettler, work supervisor with the 97th Maintenance Squadron, shows a group of honorary commanders some of the tools used by precision measurement equipment laboratory (PMEL) specialists, Jan. 14, 2020, at Altus Air Force Base, Oklahoma. The goal of the honorary commander program is to build and strengthen the relationship between the base and surrounding community. (U.S. Air Force photo by Judy Mott)

ALTUS AIR FORCE BASE, Okla. --

It isn’t every day that some civilian leaders get a behind-the-scenes look at what happens inside an Air Force base. On 14 January, 97th Maintenance Group leaders hosted 12 honorary commanders and gave them just that.

The honorary commander program pairs leaders in the Altus community with military commanders on base in an effort to build and strengthen relationships between the Wing and the surrounding area.

Attendees took part in several activities highlighting what the uniquely all-civilian maintenance group, nicknamed the “A-Team”, does on a daily basis in order to keep the heavy jets of the 97th Air Mobility Wing flying. They talked with the wash-rack crew, learned riveting and metal bending from machinists, toured the inside of C-17 Globemaster III and KC-135 Stratotanker aircraft with maintainers, and helped calibrate tools with precision measurement equipment laboratory specialists. The attendees were also gifted custom miniature airplanes made by a laser cutter.

“It’s always impressive for me to see the work and the dedication of the people that are here,” said Rodger Kerr, an honorary commander and CEO and president of the Altus Chamber of Commerce. “Be it in uniform or the civilian folks, everyone is pulling for team Altus.”

Kerr is paired with the 97th AMWs vice commander, Col. Jason Pavelschak.

When asked about what part of maintenance he was most excited to show the honorary commanders, the director of the 97th Maintenance Squadron, Anthony McKee, discussed the wide scope of responsibilities maintenance is tasked with.

“With work that spans 19 different disciplines, our technicians operate in one of the most diverse and dynamic environments in the (Department of Defense),” said McKee. “I’m extremely proud of our maintenance professionals and thankful for the opportunity to show off their skills!”

At the end of the day, the attendees met with the base commander, Col. Matthew Leard, and other base leaders for lunch at Club Altus and watched the premiere of the new Wing mission video.

“As an American, as a citizen, it’s a proud moment for me and, as the chamber guy here in Altus, an even prouder moment for me that we’re impacting a worldwide mission,” said Kerr. “Proud of our team here and proud of our community.”

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