WASHINGTON — Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson spoke about the important role communities play in supporting the Air Force mission at the 2017 Defense Communities National Summit June 19 in Washington, D.C.
Wilson emphasized how vital community partnerships are to the Air Force and outlined the symbiotic relationship military bases have with the communities outside their gates.
“You’re here because you support the military,” she said. “By working together we realize a stronger national defense, cost savings for taxpayers, and a better quality of life for Airmen and their families.”
The community’s role in retention, readiness
The biggest thing Wilson said communities can do to support Airmen is ensure quality education for their dependents.
As an example, Wilson spoke about the efforts occurring at Joint Base Charleston, South Carolina. The base is working with five schools, using grants and donations, to expand educational opportunities in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. Due to those efforts, one South Carolina high school saw a 157 percent increase in the number of students achieving a qualifying score on a math or science advanced placement exam.
Wilson said medical care, jobs for spouses, housing options and overall quality of life also play a significant role in helping the Air Force retain Airmen.
“When Airmen can focus on the mission and have peace of mind their family is taken care of, it improves readiness and it helps retention,” she said.
Supporting the mission
The service understands the unique challenges it brings to communities, especially as it relates to flying missions, according to Wilson. She said she appreciates the overwhelming support for the Air Force mission that communities near military installations provide and recognizes the many considerations that go into community planning by local leaders and citizens.
“We notice when communities stand up for us, especially when it’s hard to do,” Wilson said. “In order to train our Airmen to ensure they’re combat ready, we need your continued support.”
In areas such as infrastructure, she said the Air Force can partner with communities to help reduce costs for both parties by designing joint training opportunities for first responders and combining efforts to support community care programs.
“By working together with our families, our communities, our military services, and our nation are all made stronger,” Wilson said.