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RDA opens doors for military, community partnerships

  • Published
  • By Michelle Martin
  • 82nd Training Wing Public Affairs

SHEPPARD AIR FORCE BASE, Texas – A newly formed regional group aims to help provide a dedicated conversation with the purpose of strengthening and aligning the area’s collective voice and advocacy.

A multifaceted group of area leaders and influencers were seated at Sheppard AFB recently for its first Regional Development Alliance meeting. Military, local, state and federal stakeholders came together to communicate, coordinate, understand and address the key issues and challenges facing military communities in North Texas and Southwest Oklahoma.

According to the RDAs charter, the “ultimate aim of this voice and advocacy is to enhance not only the region’s military installations and their people and missions, but also economic development and quality of life for everyone in the communities that surround them.”

The RDA focused mainly on contingency preparedness topics during this session, however, also discussed other areas of interest for the region on subjects like education, healthcare, infrastructure, base-community partnerships, diversity and inclusion and supporting military families.

The beginnings of the RDA came from roundtable discussion groups focused on wind farm development and encroachment in North Texas which posed flying training implications on Sheppard AFB. Local and regional stakeholders began focus groups concentrating on the specifics of encroachment not only on Sheppard AFB mission-essential needs, but what those effects were also having on other regional military installations.

“After our first couple of meetings back in 2016 and 2017, two things became very clear,” said George Woodward, chief of Public Affairs at Sheppard. “First, Sheppard was not alone in dealing with the challenge of encroachment; and second, there were a lot of other issues we had in common with other military installations and communities.”

Realizing that a unified and synchronized voice would carry more weight in seeking support and advocacy, the early participants began to broaden the scope of topics and stakeholders. Subjects were fashioned from the strategic to local level, as well as regional and national challenges faced by the growing military and community alliances and partnerships of the region.

Karen Montgomery, planning administrator for Wichita Falls near Sheppard, said the RDA discovered that issues discussed during the meeting expanded from a singular focus to one that included all equities involved.

“Our discussions evolved from a community perspective on that which impacts the installation and their mission, but also things that the installation may be doing which may then be having an impact on the greater community,” she said.  

In the most recent gathering of stakeholders, with contingency preparedness at the forefront, the overall theme allowed for discussions on the resilience of built-in redundancy for infrastructure to include subjects like water, power and communication systems. The end goal for all parties involved was to ensure lasting success for Sheppard AFB and the surrounding communities.

“Basically, just about every aspect of this community and a large surrounding is intertwined with what happens at Sheppard,” Montgomery said. “That is why it is so important we continue to strive for these relationships.”

Montgomery emphasized the value of the infrastructural needs between military, local and regional communities as well as the bonds formed between military and local families, business economic impact, education and the national and international implications these partnerships have with the Euro-NATO Joint Jet Pilot Training program at Sheppard.

“We really can’t imagine this community without Sheppard,” she said. “It’s vital. As much as Sheppard may rely on the community, we’re very dependent on what happens at Sheppard. Continuing to learn from one another and create solutions is invaluable.”

The RDA is set to meet semiannually with the exchange in topics varied based on current ongoings, to include bringing updates to the group or to further dialogue around previous subjects.

Sheppard AFB plans to serve as the RDA’s sponsor, providing support and logistics to continue forward and ensure its success. The proposed plan is for a rotation of other communities to host meetings, allowing them to highlight their missions and challenges in order to further create partnerships and understanding of each other.

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