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Biloxi Bay Chamber takes home Altus Trophy

U.S. Air Force Lt. Gen. Steve Kwast, commander of Air Education and Training Command, (at right) and Dr. Joe Leverett, Altus Trophy committee chairman announced Biloxi, Mississippi, as the 2017 Altus Trophy winner and presented the award to John Boothby and Lenny Sawyer of the Biloxi Bay Area Chamber of Commerce at Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph, Texas, March 8, 2018. The Altus Trophy is given to the community judged to have shown outstanding support to an AETC base. (U.S. Air Force photo by Joel Martinez)

U.S. Air Force Lt. Gen. Steve Kwast, commander of Air Education and Training Command, (at right) and Dr. Joe Leverett, Altus Trophy committee chairman announced Biloxi, Mississippi, as the 2017 Altus Trophy winner and presented the award to John Boothby and Lenny Sawyer of the Biloxi Bay Area Chamber of Commerce at Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph, Texas, March 8, 2018. The Altus Trophy is given to the community judged to have shown outstanding support to an AETC base. (U.S. Air Force photo by Joel Martinez)

JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-RANDOLPH, Texas-- Lt. Gen. Steve Kwast, commander of Air Education and Training Command, announced the community of Biloxi, Mississippi, as the winner of the 2017 Altus Trophy during a brief ceremony with AETC’s Civic Leader Group, March 8, here.

“We are all here to witness an AETC tradition, a tradition that is pretty special,” Kwast said. “This is our way of recognizing the community’s impact and relationship with our bases in AETC.”

The trophy, which is presented in partnership with the Altus Chamber of Commerce, is given to the AETC community that provides the best support to its local military installation.

Each year competitors are considered by members of the Altus Military Affairs Committee and the final decision was made by a panel of former AETC commanders.

Through its partnership and support of Keesler Air Force Base, the Biloxi Bay Area Chamber of Commerce, made up of 1,000 plus members from every sector of the economy, was selected as this year’s trophy recipient.

“The trophy sits on a base that is a solid sheet of granite that is from the mountains just north of Altus Air Force Base,” Dr. Joe Leverett, Altus Trophy committee chairman, said moments before presenting the trophy. “And this granite symbolizes the rock-solid support the communities give to the bases they support.”

Some of the accomplishments that lead to Biloxi being selected are as follows:

  • In partnership with the city of Biloxi, the State of Mississippi and many other local partners, Keesler AFB reached an agreement and $37 million in funding was secured for the relocation of the main gate and additional infrastructure development. Construction will begin early this year and will be funded in part by a gift from the Mississippi Development Authority.
  • In 2017, Keesler AFB and stakeholders from every sector of the Mississippi Gulf Coast embarked on a yearlong planning initiative to uncover areas of Public-Public/Public-Private partnership opportunities that mutually benefit the local community.
  • In an effort to create a smoother hurricane evacuation plan, local school districts from Harrison County and other surrounding partners formed an agreement where Harrison County will lend the Air Force use of county Government-owned buses in the case of an evacuation order issued for Keesler AFB. 
  • Partnering with several local colleges and universities, as well as Keesler AFB, the Air Force Association and the Civil Air Patrol, the community has implemented Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics events to local schools and universities through a variety of events hosted on- and off- base.
  • The Gulf Coast Centurions, Biloxi Parks and Recreation, and local businesses are in discussions with Keesler AFB to initiate a local Bike Share program on base. By providing Airmen with the availability of low-cost, environmentally friendly transportation, local businesses would see an increase in business as Airmen are able to more easily access off-base activities and businesses.
  • As part of a long-standing partnership that spans 30 years, Keesler AFB hosted the Special Olympics of Mississippi 2017 Summer Games. The event consisted of over 3,200 athletes, directors, coaches, families, and volunteers from across the state.

As the representatives of the Biloxi community posed for a photo with the Altus trophy, Leverett explained the symbolism of the award itself.

“One of the things that I love most about this program is when this trophy is officially presented within the community, looking out and seeing the sense of pride, the look of validation as they are awarded for taking care of their Airmen and their communities,” Leverett said.

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