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NEWS | Feb. 23, 2011

Joint Base Charleston inducts Honorary Commanders

By Thomas Kistler Joint Base Charleston Public Affairs

More than 30 area business people and community leaders became Honorary Commanders of various Air Force and Navy organizations at Joint Base Charleston, Feb. 22.

Honorary Commanders serve a one-year term and are charged with learning about the U.S. military and the unit to which they are assigned, participating in their military unit's social and ceremonial activities, and sharing their experiences with their family, friends and colleagues.

After meeting their active duty commander counterparts, the civic leaders proceeded to a deployment line where they received equipment for their "deployment" such as body armor, helmets and canteens, before receiving chemical warfare and first aid training.

"I knew it was going to be as real and as live as they can make it for civilians. It's been pretty interesting," said Michelle Kelly, director of sales, Clear Channel Radio, Charleston. Ms. Kelly is the Honorary Commander for the 14th Airlift Squadron.

"People don't realize there are a hundred steps to the deployment process," Ms. Kelly said. "It's not just getting in a truck and going away. There are so many details involved that can be as simple as putting on an outfit or gathering gear. It's interesting to see from a civilian point of view because we don't ever think about what goes on behind the scenes. We just see troops getting into a truck and driving away."

Following their training, the inductees boarded a bus and were taken to the flightline to board their aircraft for the "flight" to their deployed location. While the aircraft remained stationery with engines off, the Honorary Commanders had the opportunity to dine on an in-flight meal and learn about the capabilities of the C-17 Globemaster III aircraft.

"It's amazing to understand what goes on around the base. It's pretty awesome! I'm looking forward to learning more," said Don Kassing, Aspire 2 Consulting president and honorary commander for the Naval Consolidated Brig Charleston. "The whole joint base process is fascinating; how the different branches of the military are now working together. I'm looking forward to an exciting year and getting to meet more Airmen and Sailors."

The evening concluded when Col. Martha Meeker, the joint base commander, administered the oath of office to the new Honorary Commanders.

Bill Moody, a retired certified public accountant and 628th Air Base Wing Honorary Commander, said, "It's important to understand the relationship civilians have with the military. Every one of these Honorary Commanders will go back to their jobs and their communities and say, 'wow let me tell you what I saw today on the Air Force base.' That's our job, to go back to the community and say, 'you might not know this but the men and women who are serving do so much for us, thank them. That's our mission as Honorary Commanders."