SUNDAY, JULY 20, 2014

Col. Brian Newberry: Spokane honors Fairchild AFB

As I leave command this week, I would be remiss to not salute Spokane and the Inland Northwest for the support given Fairchild Air Force Base airmen for over seven decades. I saw it firsthand and will sing your praises because you deserve it.

To this Lilac community founded on the banks of the Spokane River, your level of support has been full throttle. I will always remember my first Spokane County Fair, where you highlighted the military; the numerous sporting events from the Chiefs hockey games to Indians baseball, where boisterous cheers always rang out when local soldiers, sailors, airmen or Marines stood up to be recognized; or the two Lilac parades where 100,000 local citizens proudly rose to applaud the United States flag and my formation of airmen. The contagious enthusiasm for America as we passed by on the parade route from every citizen was palpable – your patriotism is clearly part of your DNA.

Please know, however, your support goes far beyond showing appreciation. Every year, you coronate a Lilac Court of Princesses, and they go forth promoting service before self in numerous venues; encouraging love of military and love of community. Local nonprofits like Operation Spokane Heroes collect donations and make monetary donations to young members of all services for use by those most desperately in need. Here, recently, WorkSource has made a commitment to support transition specialists on my base who will help airmen smoothly transition during the current downsizing. I, likewise, sincerely appreciate all the media, all the news outlets, being there so often to tell the airmen’s story. I thank them for their caring, and I thank Spokane for listening.

Additionally, in my first six months of command, all the communities rallied to sign the Joint Land Use Study to find common ground on encroachment – this is truly a remarkable agreement and shows your commitment to nation above self. While issues like land use and questions about building around the base persist, rest assured the Air Force here at Fairchild continues to search for common ground. We hope that all parties can agree on a mutually beneficial way ahead for the long-term health of the community. Together, we know, we can go far.

Because of your seamless support, Fairchild remains pivotal in our nation’s defense, refueling enough combat aircraft in 2013 to fill the family car and drive it around the globe 12,500 times. Or providing support to our Survival School, which trains 18,000 airmen a year to return with honor. Your elected officials from my honorary commander, Mayor David Condon, to all the communities from Airway Heights to Liberty Lake, never hesitated to provide unmatched support when called.

Ultimately, the Inland Northwest showed its mettle in our darkest times, standing shoulder to shoulder with us and our sister services when fallen patriots returned home, from Sgt. Matthew Stiltz, to my three fallen airmen, to most recently, Cpl. Justin Clouse. Your comfort to families will not be forgotten. Of all the awards that occurred in my timeframe, the recent awarding of the Abilene Trophy for being the most supportive community to a military base in Air Mobility Command was extremely gratifying to me, and well-deserved. It clearly is a public expression and visible reminder of your Lilac heart that beats strong with a red, white and blue crescendo.

You have been and always will be our firm foundation and I salute you for it. The 92nd will remain your wingman as we soar together higher, stronger and faster. Stay the course, Inland Northwest!

Col. Brian Newberry is the commander of the 92nd Air Refueling Wing.

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