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NEWS | Nov. 4, 2023

Team Charleston welcomes 18 new honorary commanders, presents public service award to local community leader

By Airman 1st Class Carl Good Joint Base Charleston Public Affairs

Team Charleston welcomed 18 community and civic leaders into the honorary commander program during an induction ceremony at the Joint Base Charleston Commons, Nov. 2.

The program involves more than 50 community leaders who are actively engaged in partnerships with commanders and senior leaders across the joint base.

“We're here to recognize a very special group of local community leaders who are about to be inducted as honorary commanders,” said Maj. Gen. John Klein, U.S. Air Force Expeditionary Center commander. “It all really comes down to one thing, and that’s relationships. It’s those enduring bonds that build the strength from within our communities.”

The honorary commander program enhances public awareness of JB Charleston's mission and fosters strong connections between base leadership and the Lowcountry community.

“What you do directly and indirectly affects, impacts and enables our service members and their families to do what they do every day for the nation,” said Chief Master Sgt. Courtney Freeman, USAFEC command chief. “Your involvement as honorary commanders supports national security, and we can't thank you enough here today.”

Honorary commanders participate in various military events and award ceremonies, collaborating with unit commanders throughout the year. These interactions provide them with insights into the lives of service members and the complexities of the military mission.

Janice Newton, Medical University of South Carolina wellness center director and graduating honorary commander, imparted wisdom to the new and active honorary commanders.

“Joint Base Charleston has its heart in the right place and is always willing to spend time and teach honorary commanders,” Newton said. “You have to show up. I know you’re busy, but when you can, you will always learn and you will always walk away as a better honorary commander.”

Following Newton’s remarks, each military commander and his or her newly-appointed honorary commander were recognized on stage. Colonel Michael Freeman, 628th Air Base Wing commander, then took the stage to administer the honorary commander oath.

The oath states that honorary commanders will support the men and women of JB Charleston, serving as Department of Defense ambassadors in the local community.

After the oath, Freeman invited Klein to join him on stage to present the Commander’s Public Service Award to Cheryl Clark, president and co-founder of the Palmetto Military Support Group, for 16 years of partnership with JB Charleston and her role in connecting the Charleston community with military service members.

“Cheryl’s advocacy, commitment and dedication has supported our service members, the joint base, and the military at large,” Col. Freeman said. “She was an honorary commander to both the 628th Air Base Wing and the 437th Airlift Wing, as well as an Air Mobility Command civic leader.”

According to the award citation, Clark has been a long-standing supporter of JB Charleston. As the president of the PMSG, she continues to bridge the gap between the greater Charleston community and service members through fundraisers, engagements, and education.

After the award presentation, one more military commander took to the stage to offer closing comments.

“In closing, congratulations to those graduating, those returning, and those first-time inductees,” said Col. Carlos Berdecia, 437th Operations Group commander. “The oath is pretty special. I hope you take those words and you keep them in your heart. Thank you for stepping into the arena, connecting Joint Base Charleston with the local community that it serves.”